A Guide to Red Wines
A Guide to Red Wines
Looking at The Types of Red Wine
While having dinner at a local restaurant recently, a friend decided to have a glass of red wine with dinner. They asked what I thought would go best with their entree, rack of lamb, and not being familiar with the restaurant's wine list, I suggested they ask our server. The server was not much help saying that a nice red, maybe a "cab" would work, which really means nothing to an inexperienced wine drinker. So for the novice, let's go through a few basics about red wine.
Red wines vary greatly in color. Although it it can vary depending on the type of wine, the ideal color for a red wine is between a deep red and a mahogany. If the wine is too purple it indicates youth, and brown indicates old age. Red wines do not vary in taste as much as their white counter parts. Reds are rarely sweet, and sometimes have a tanny edge due to "tannins". This unique bitterness comes from the red grape skins which also provide the rich color. Red wines are ALWAYS served and stored at room temperature.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON - (cab-er-nay sauv-een-yon)
This is a full, robust, deep wine. High in tannins it can be a little bitter. It has the aroma and flavor of berries, chocolate, vanilla and butter. (Someone with a refined nose could list dozens of flavors.) It can sometimes have a musty, peppery flavor. It usually ages well, and a good Cab will grow in complexity.
MERLOT - (mer-low)
Softer and less harsh than a Cabernet. It has less tannin, and is richer and sweeter. It has the aroma and flavor of berries, black pepper, vanilla, and cherries. Merlot ages quickly.
PINOT NOIR - (pee-no new-ah)
Light in color and tannins. Matures quickly and doesn't linger on the palette as long as Cabernet. Has the flavor and aroma of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and butter. It can also have a distinctive spicy floral flavor.
SYRAH - (si-rah)
The syrah grape, when fully ripe has a increased alcohol, sugar, color and bitterness. The wine is dark, has a full body which lingers on the palette and a smoky, roasted, leather aroma, with hints of oak and berries.
ZINFANDEL - (zin-fan-del)
Not to be confused with the pink White Zinfandel. (When ordering in a restaurant, specify White Zinfandel if you want the sweet headache inducing variety of white.) Zin is dark purple and commonly consumed while young as it retains its fruity flavor. Don't let this throw you - it does age well and opens up after being corked and it has a while to breathe. It has the aromas peppery berries, strawberry, raspberry, plum, raisin, and blackcurrant, with a hint of smoke and mint.
If you're dining on beef or lamb, find a hearty Cabernet, a full bodied Merlot, or a spicy, smoky Zinfandel or Syrah. A Syrah can nicely compliment beef or lamb if it is being served rare. Find a Pinot Noir you enjoy, preferably a bit lighter and more floral and fruity in its bouquet to compliment any pork dish, or if you're enjoying a seafood served steak style such as Tuna, ahi or albacore, or Swordfish, especially if served with a fruit salsa. A pasta dish served with any kind of marinara sauce, is nicely complimented by most reds, but try it with a robust Merlot or a spicy Zinfandel. Take some time, do some tasting, and find out what your personal preferences are.