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Red Wine

Learn about red wine — the range of styles, how it’s made and more ...

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What are the types and styles of red wine?

There are hundreds of types of red wine varieties in commercial use, from light and finessed to bold and structured, however, only about 35 varieties contribute to the majority of red wine production. The most grown grape varieties are:

How is red wine made?

To make red wine, the pressed grape juice is left in contact with its skins—a process called maceration—to draw out color, tannins and phenols (compounds responsible for the complex aromas and flavors in wine). With fermentation complete, the wine is aged in tank or barrel. Short aging results in a fresh, fruity red. To allow time for flavors to integrate, more complex wines need to age longer, often in oak barrels, which may impart notes of toast, vanilla or coconut.

What gives red wine its color?

Grape juice is almost colorless. Color comes from maceration, when the juice is left in contact with grape skins. Longer macerations result in deeper red tones, but grape variety hues vary. For example, wines made from Nebbiolo are pale garnet, Merlot is bright ruby and Syrah opaque purple.

How do you serve red wine?

Temperature is key. Aim for 55° F to 60° F for lighter reds and 60° F to 65° F for fuller ones. A wine served too cold will be muted. Serve it warm and it will taste too alcoholic. If you have a wine fridge or cellar, you’re set. If not, place the bottle in your refrigerator for 20-30 minutes prior to serving. Next, some reds benefit from a few minutes or more of aeration in a decanter. This exposes the wine to oxygen, which helps release the compounds responsible for aroma and taste. As for drinking red wines, the best glasses have a stem and a bowl large enough to allow proper swirling to allow release of aromas. Fill your glass no more than halfway.

How long does red wine last?

Opened and re-corked, a bottle will stay fresh in your fridge for one to two days, a bit longer for more tannic reds. (We have ideas for what to do with leftover red wine if you don’t get back to it quickly). Unopened, red wines stay good for one year to several decades. Optimal storage means bottles lay on their sides in a moderately humid environment at 57° F, but assessing how long to age a bottle is complicated. Seek a wine professional for advice if you are unsure.

Pairing red wine with food

These guidelines will help you make the most of red wine pairing options.

  • If a sauce is involved, focus more on that than the protein. For example, considering Coq Au Vin, play off the pancetta, mushrooms and wine with an earthy Pinot Noir.
  • Match intensity levels, i.e. a bold red with a bold dish, lighter with lighter. Spice-rubbed lamb kabobs go perfectly with a bold Syrah from Columbia Valley, Washington.
  • A highly tannic red pairs well with fatty foods. Dolcetto is amazing with a cheese and charcuterie plate.
  • High acid foods call for high acid wines. Ever wonder Barbera and Sangiovese are so ubiquitous in Italy? As high acid wines, both are perfect matches to anything involving tomato sauce.
  • Beware of dry red with dessert! Your wine should be sweeter than the treat. Try Tawny Port with dark chocolate for a match made in heaven.

While every U.S. state produces wine, the most famous and popular regions remain those on the west coast:

  • Napa Valley. First commercial winery 1861. Cabernet.
  • Sonoma County. Since mid-1800’s. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet.
  • Paso Robles. 1880’s. Cabernet, Zinfandel and Rhone varieties.
  • Santa Rita Hills. 1971. Pinot Noir.
  • Willamette Valley, Oregon. 1965. Pinot Noir.
  • Columbia Valley, Washington (and part of northern Oregon). 1860’s. Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet.

Worldwide, wine destinations abound, with the most venerated in Europe. The last four are popular New World regions.

  • Bordeaux, France. As early as 60 BC. Based on Merlot and Cabernet.
  • Burgundy, France. From 2nd century AD. Pinot Noir.
  • Tuscany, Italy. From 8th century BC. Based on Sangiovese, plus “Super Tuscans” made with other reds.
  • Rioja, Spain. From 11th century BC. Based on Tempranillo.
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa. 1680’s. Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage.
  • Mendoza, Argentina. Late 1800’s. Malbec and others.
  • Colchagua Valley, Chile. 1870’s. Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere.
  • Barossa Valley, Australia. 1842. Shiraz and others.

Sweet red wine

Whether light and effervescent (e.g., Lambrusco and Brachetto d’Acqui) or bold and fortified (Port and Bual Madeira), sweet red wines can be terrific on their own or with a range of desserts.

Dry red wine

A dry red occurs when fermentation continues until most or all grape sugars have been converted to alcohol. Most common red wines on the shelf – Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, etc.—are dry wines.

Smoothest red wine

Red wines are perceived as smooth when their tannins are either naturally low, have been carefully managed by the winemaker or have partially fallen out of suspension due to aging. Red varieties with lower tannins include Pinot Noir, Grenache, Gamay, Barbera and Corvina.

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  • Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019  Front Label
    Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
    • WW93
    • WS92
    4.5 300 Ratings
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  • Opus One  2017  Front Label
    Opus One 2017
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Oakville, Napa Valley, California
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    • RP95
    • WS93
    4.3 42 Ratings
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  • Robert Mondavi To Kalon Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  Front Label
    Robert Mondavi To Kalon Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville, Napa Valley, California
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    • RP96
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    • WS93
    • WE91
    4.3 135 Ratings
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  • Duckhorn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
    Duckhorn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
    • WS93
    • WW92
    4.6 29 Ratings
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  • Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2018  Front Label
    Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2018
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
    • JS98
    • WE98
    • RP97
    • D97
    • WS96
    • W&S96
    5.0 10 Ratings
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  • Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  Front Label
    Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
    • WW94
    4.5 84 Ratings
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  • Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  Front Label
    Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California
    • WW93
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  • Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
    Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
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    • JD90
    4.4 194 Ratings
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  • Sena  2018  Front Label
    Sena 2018
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Aconcagua Valley, Chile
    • JS100
    • RP98
    • JD98
    • D97
    4.6 19 Ratings
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  • Castellani Sangiovese 2016  Front Label
    Castellani Sangiovese 2016
    Sangiovese from Tuscany, Italy
    • JS94
    • WW92
    4.1 950 Ratings
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  • Continuum  2018  Front Label
    Continuum 2018
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
    • RP100
    • WW100
    • JS100
    4.6 30 Ratings
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  • Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2018  Front Label
    Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2018
    Pinot Noir from Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
    • RP94
    • JS93
    • W&S90
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  • Antinori Tignanello 2018  Front Label
    Antinori Tignanello 2018
    Tuscan Blends from Tuscany, Italy
    • RP98
    • JS96
    • WS92
    4.4 18 Ratings
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  • Tolaini Valdisanti Toscana 2016  Front Label
    Tolaini Valdisanti Toscana 2016
    Tuscan Blends from Tuscany, Italy
    • RP94
    • JS93
    • WS92
    • V92
    4.3 36 Ratings
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  • Substance Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
    Substance Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley, Washington
    • JS93
    • JD91
    • D90
    3.8 1486 Ratings
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  • Antinori Tignanello 2017  Front Label
    Antinori Tignanello 2017
    Tuscan Blends from Tuscany, Italy
    • WE97
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    • D95
    • WS93
    4.7 126 Ratings
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  • Joseph Phelps Insignia 2017  Front Label
    Joseph Phelps Insignia 2017
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Napa Valley, California
    • WW97
    • D96
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    • V93
    4.8 26 Ratings
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  • Chateau Laroque  2016 Front Label
    Chateau Laroque 2016
    Bordeaux Red Blends from St. Emilion, Bordeaux, France
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    • WS93
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    • D92
    • WE92
    4.0 211 Ratings
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  • Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2018  Front Label
    Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2018
    Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
    • WW90
    4.8 7 Ratings
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  • The Prisoner Wine Company The Prisoner 2019  Front Label
    The Prisoner Wine Company The Prisoner 2019
    Other Red Blends from California
    • WW93
    4.6 317 Ratings
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  • Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2018  Front Label
    Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2018
    Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California
    • WE96
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    • CG91
    4.2 128 Ratings
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  • Chateau Rauzan-Segla  2010 Front Label
    Chateau Rauzan-Segla 2010
    Bordeaux Red Blends from Margaux, Bordeaux, France
    • JS98
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    • WE96
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    • D96
    • WS94
    4.5 31 Ratings
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  • Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2016  Front Label
    Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2016
    Sangiovese from Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
    • JS97
    • D97
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    • RP94
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    • V94
    • WS93
    4.5 46 Ratings
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  • Far Niente Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
    Far Niente Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California
    • WE95
    • JD95
    • WW94
    • RP94
    4.4 47 Ratings
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  • Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon 2018  Front Label
    Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, California
    • D97
    • WW92
    • CG90
    3.9 42 Ratings
    Currently Unavailable $49.99
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