Red Wine Basics


Red wine is obviously red, but have you ever wondered why that is?  The color of red wine is derived from many different kinds of grape varietals that range from grades that are deep purple, reddish or even blue.  These different kinds of grapes go into making wines that are color classified with descriptions such as maroon, deep violet, opaque purple, ruby red, light red, dark red, almost black and garnet, to name a few.  The skin of the grapes are what is responsible for the distinct color of red wine.  During the fermentation process, the skins and juice of the grapes are in contact with each other.  The specific red hue of an individual wine depends on what type of grape is used during the process as well as the amount of time that the pigmentation of the skin and juice are in contact with each other.  There are approximately 50 key varietals of red wine that manifest themselves consistently in the wine markets of the world today.

Red Wine

Styles Of Red Wine

Like with all types of wine, the individual winemaker has plenty of say in the wine style he produces.  Red wines are frequently classified according to their body type.  As an example, a certain kind of red wine might be described as light-bodied in reference to the tannin structure and mouth-feel.  A light-bodied wine has less presence on one’s palate and has fewer tannins.  When combined with very flavorful foods, this style of wine is a less demanding partner.  One example of a red wine that is light-bodied is one that uses the Gamay grape varietal, like the famous young French wine Beaujolais Nouveau.  Medium-bodied red wines have more tannins in them than a wine such as the Beaujolais Nouveau.  However, they don’t have nearly the same pucker power that a high-powered Italian Super Tuscan or California Cabernet Sauvignon has.  Typical medium-bodied red wine examples include: Chianti, Shiraz and Merlot.  Full-bodied red wines have the highest tannin content and frequently the highest alcohol content as well.  Good examples of full-bodied red wines include the Bordeaux wines from France, key Cabs from California and the Super Tuscans from Italy.  Light-bodied wines in general have a tendency to have more of a water-like feel inside the mouth.  Full-bodied wines, on the other hand, feel a lot heavier, similar to milk.  The effect is in large part due to having a higher tannin and alcohol content.

Red Wine Key Varietals

The key red wine varietals most often found include: Grenache, Malbec, Sangiovese, Shiraz, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet France, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Red wines are sometimes referred to using their regional names.  A Bordeaux, for example, is a French red wine made mostly from three varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  In terms of Italian wines, you frequently hear about Chianti- which is made using the Sangiovese grape varietal.  There are also the Barbaresco and Piedmont Barolo wines.  The red wine super star grape for Argentina is Malbec.  It is, in fact, a rising star for the entire red wine world.