Red wine is timeless in its appeal, and celebrated for the subtle differences among varieties. Like fine art or music, you don’t need to understand everything about it to enjoy a glass, or to choose a favored variety. You simply need to take a taste, and make note of what appeals to you most.
Red wine differs from white for the simple reason that it’s made from darker grapes, with the skin of the fruit intact. Grape skins lend a fuller flavor (the kind that makes your tongue pucker) and deeper color.
Though the grape and the place it’s been grown will set the foundation for the finished product, many other factors are at play. A wine’s final color, bouquet and flavor are influenced by the climate and growing season of the fruit, the type and length of the aging process, the skill and traditions of the winemaker – and to some extent, even the size and shape of the glass. WineFolly has a great illustration on how it’s made here.
That said, there are some generalizations to be made and different varieties are somewhat predictable in what they have to offer.
See our quick beginner guide to red wine below:
Pinot Noir – Mild/Soft
Pinot Noir tends to suit a wide array of palates. It’s often described as “mild” or “soft”, making it a good starting place for anyone new to wine tasting. Get to know Pinot, and you may be able to classify other wines by comparison.
Merlot – Mild
Merlot is another delicately flavored wine, with no bold or extreme taste to offend the palate. It’s sometimes described as “easy to drink”, and usually not as bold some other varieties. For both Merlot and Pinot Noir, a great diversity of flavors (and prices) are available.
Malbec – Smooth/Fruity
Malbec is a mild-flavored variety, sometimes blended with bolder grapes for fuller flavor. Alone, Malbec is usually smooth and lightly fruity.