Wine has been made for thousands of years, whether for religious purposes, festivals, or simply to enjoy with a delicious meal. Apart from the name on the label, red wines might be difficult to distinguish from one another, but what is it about the wine’s taste and smell that causes particular wines to be so different? In this guide, we delve into how red wine is made, the various flavor characteristics associated with each popular style of red wine, and their food pairings.
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How Is Red Wine Made?
Every bottle of red wine that arrives on our tables symbolizes the winemaker’s process and workmanship. Making red wine is very basic, as there are a few predetermined stages that must be followed by winemakers with care and attention to guarantee a fantastic product.
The primary distinction between red and white wines is that red wines are made from the skins of grapes, which are required throughout the fermentation process to provide the wine with color, texture, and flavor.
The first stage in the red wine-making process is to harvest and crush the grapes. Following that, some winemakers use commercial yeast to start fermentation, while others use native yeast that lingers on the grapes or is present in the cellar’s environment to start fermentation. In either case, yeast cells inside the sweet fluid spring to life and start the process of converting sugar to alcohol, carbon dioxide, and heat.
Must is the combination of seeds, skins, and juice. Some winemakers refrigerate the must for 24 hours to 48 hours, a technique known as “cold soaking,” in order to remove color and flavor ingredients from the skins prior to producing alcohol.
After the fermentation process is completed, the wine is pressed, and the juice is ready to begin the aging phase. Depending on the appellation and the laws governing the manufacture of each red wine, this may happen for several years, and it could happen in stainless steel, wood, amphora, or concrete.
When red wine is ready to be bottled, many winemakers prefer to filter it first. Extra sediment is removed by coarse filtration. Sterile filtering eliminates practically all leftover yeast and organisms that might ruin the wine later.
Sulfur dioxide levels are frequently adjusted right before a wine is bottled. This is the procedure that has evolved the most from ancient times when the most advanced packing materials were gourds, goatskins, and clay jars. Before the empty bottles are filled with wine, corked, and labeled, the oxygen is removed. If you’d like to explore and learn more about red wine, check out Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours for beer and wine adventures.
Types of Red Wine
1. Light-bodied reds
These would be your classic “gateway reds,” light and pleasant, ideal for white wine consumers wishing to make the switch. The light-bodied reds may be sipped on their own, but they also pair nicely with food due to their reduced tannin content.
- St. Laurent: This is a darker, slightly paunchier type of pinot noir with berry, cherry, and baking spice notes. It’s ideal to take to a barbecue and combine with rich, smoky-sweet tastes, or to enjoy alongside a cured meat and cheese buffet.
- Pinot Noir: It’s light and dry red wine, often known as the “Sideways”, with strong acidity and complex aromatics. Pinot noir is cultivated all over the world, from Burgundy through Sonoma to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, each expression is unique. A pretty standard flavor profile, on the other hand, is the red-fruit-forth with herbaceous and earthy overtones. An excellent pinot noir is often more expensive than other varieties, though devoted pinot noir fans will assure you it’s well worth the money.
- Lambrusco: This is an Italian-born red that once had a terrible reputation for being excessively sugary and inexpensive, but it is presently experiencing a revival, looking to make it a wine worth drinking. Lambrusco is frequently frizzante (slightly effervescent) and sweet, making it the ideal accompaniment for Friday night cuisines like pulled pork, sausage pizza, and burgers.
- Beaujolais: The Gamay grape is used to make Beaujolais reds, which are named for the region of France where they are grown. These young wines are Thanksgiving favorites because of their high acidity and red berry overtones, which pair well with cranberry sauce, squash, gravy, turkey, and everything else. Beaujolais, on the other hand, may be enjoyed all year long, accompanied by a cheese board or any roasted white meat meal.
2. Medium-bodied reds
These wines are neither too light nor too strong. Medium-bodied reds have more tannins in comparison to lighter wines, yet they don’t overwhelm you with complicated structure or powerful taste.
- Barbera: This northern Italian wine is rich in taste and luscious. Barbera is designed to be consumed young. It pairs well with mushroom risotto or lamb shanks thanks to its natural acidity and bright fruit aromas. It’s also reasonably priced.
- Merlot: Consider cherry, chocolate, and smooth tannins. Merlot is a light, flexible red that pairs nicely with practically any dish, including a simple evening meal of roasted chicken thighs with vegetables.
- Red Zinfandel: The scents of jammy, candied fruit, and a peppery tobacco finish distinguish this wine. Featuring high acidity and mid-range tannins, it’s powerful without being heavy (with a high alcohol level). Serve it with a savory-sweet dish like curry or sour BBQ ribs.
3. Full-bodied reds
The most tannins (and frequently the highest alcohol percentage) are found in full-bodied reds, which give the palate a sense of weight. These wines are perfect for pairing with hearty, substantial meals since they are powerful enough to stand on their own while still allowing the flavors to shine.
- Petite Sirah: This is a distinct grape varietal, not merely a “petite” variant of Syrah. Petite Sirah, which is mostly grown in California, is an extremely tannic red with notes of blueberries, black pepper, chocolate, and even broken pebbles. Test your patience by decanting it for a few hours to allow the flavors and aromas to develop. Choose a food that is robust but not sweet, such as stuffed peppers.
- Cab: Among red wines, Cab (a natural combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc) reigns supreme. Cab’s mile-long finish, huge body, and intense flavors, complement the marinade and meat like no other. It’s cultivated and appreciated globally, and it’s the go-to wine for steak dinners.
- Shiraz: is the new-world (typically Australian) equivalent of Syrah from France. Each sip is a mouth-watering explosion of spice and fruit, with strong tannins that help it age gracefully. Shiraz has enough body to stand up to bold flavors such as a greasy blue cheeseburger or spicy grilled chicken. Shiraz is one of the wines with the greatest antioxidant content.
- Malbec: Argentina’s pride and pleasure has established a reputation in America over the last 10 to 15 years as the number one choice, crowd-favorite red wine with meals. Malbec is a wine with a spicy finish and black fruits — kind of like a packed, unrefined Merlot. Best served with beef empanadas.
Red Wine Food Pairings
Red wine with lamb
Lamb is a highly adaptable red meat that can be served in a variety of ways (roasted, grilled) and has a distinct flavor that varies according to the age of the lamb or the country from which it is sourced. There are several choices for perfecting your lamb-wine match and serving your guests the nicest supper they’ve had in a long time.
What to pair with lamb?
- Barbaresco, Barolo, and Nebbiolo Langhe. All of the top Piemonte wines go well with roasted and grilled lamb.
- If you’re offering roasted lamb, Bordeaux blends are the way to go.
- Pinot Noir from Burgundy pairs well with young lamb.
Red wine with pork
To select the ideal pork and wine combo, consider two components that distinguish pork: fat and salt. Pork is a fattier meat than lamb or steak, which is why it pairs well with medium-bodied, high-acidity reds.
What to pair with pork?
- Zinfandel from California for pork ribs
- Cabernet Franc
- Pinotage from South Africa
- Malbec from Argentina rather than Malbec from France
Red wine with steak
Everyone knows that red wine and steak are the perfect food and wine match. Red wine and red meat are one of those unwritten universal principles; it’s the most traditional combo and one you can never go wrong with. However, not all red wines are suitable for a steak dinner. Light-bodied reds are generally not recommended with red meat; instead, go for a medium or full-bodied red wine, preferably one with greater tannins.
What to pair with steak?
- Syrah from Spain and Australia
- Cabernets from Napa Valley and Chile
- Sangiovese or Chianti from Tuscany
- Malbecs from France and Argentina
- Zinfandel from California
Red wine with cheese
Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel pair nicely with strong cheeses. Pair them with hard, salty cheese, preferably one with tyrosine crystals. The cheese is best served in little bite-sized chunks over grilled toast. Cabernet Sauvignon complements old cheddars and spicy cheeses wonderfully.
Wine, particularly red wine, is an acquired taste. When you don’t know what to look for, finding the right bottle of red may be extremely challenging — especially with wine experts throwing around buzzwords like viscosity (liquid consistency) and tannins (bitterness).
However, don’t let the fancy jargon deter you from experiencing the fantastic taste trip that is rouge wine. There are other red grape varieties available, but for the sake of simplicity, just know that red wine is sometimes defined by “body type,” which refers to how heavy the wine feels on your tongue.