Learning About Red Wines

By Mark Adams

Mark is the founder of amber crest winery, a professional winemaker, an author and frequent speaker on wine.  He teaches wine classes throughout the United States.

Realize, for most people it takes a while to develop a taste for red wine and most people like white before they like red.  So if you try red now and don’t like it, that’s OK.

Try again a few months down the road.  It’s funny how your tastes will change even in a short time.

OK, red wines. Color…  Why are there so many different shades of red wine?

Red wines can range from light burgundy to almost a dark purple.  Why is this?  Because it’s the skins that give red wine its color.

All grape juice is clear.  For white wines only the juice is used.  For red wines, the juice is mixed with the skins, releasing the color in the skins making the wine red.

Some grapes, like cabernet sauvignon or merlot, have very thick skins and more pigments to give the wine a darker color.

Pinot Noir, by comparison is usually a very light colored wine because it has a very thin and light skin.

But really all you need to know is that the color of the wine is caused by the grape skin.

As wines age, most wines will also darken a bit.

Now let’s talk about the body. Red wines have much more body or feel heavier on the tongue that white wines.  This is because they naturally have a little more sugar than white wines, which after fermentation leads to a higher alcohol % than white wines.

Since alcohol is more dense that water, it feel heavier and a little thicker than white wines.

Red wines also are usually kept in oak barrels.  We will talk more about tannins in another article but realize oak has tannins.  In addition to making your mouth dry out, tannins when transferred to the wine can make it feel heavier than unoaked wine.

By the way, if you sometimes think you taste the flavor of vanilla, it’s because oak can impart a vanilla taste to the wine.

If you taste a smoky, BBQ type flavor, the wine was probably stored in a toasted oak barrel.  The winemaker can influence the taste of wine by many different methods.

That’s why you sometimes like a variety of red wine and sometimes you don’t.  You’re responding to the style of a particular winemaker or winery.

Flavors. Some common flavors in red wines are plums, cherries, black currants and various other berries and maybe even something fun like licorice.

This has been a quick overview of red wines.  Something to just get you started.

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