Buy Red Wines

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Red wines are produced from red and black grapes. This perhaps is obvious. But many people don't realize that it's not the juice itself which is red. Even the darkest grape produces clear juice. What accounts for red wine's colors, from rose to dark garnet, is the amount of time the clear, pressed juice is allowed to remain in contact with the expelled red and black skins.

Beyond just its color, red wines also have more "tannins" than white wines. The higher tannin count is also a result of the time the expelled juice spends in contact with the skins. Higher tannins give red wines greater complexity than most whites. They also impart that "firm," "drying" quality in the mouth. In so-called "young" wines, this tannic sensation can be quite dramatic. As red wines continue to age, however, the tannins mellow out, and a more harmonious blend is created. Expert viticulturists say this is one of the reasons that red wines usually age better than whites.

When shopping for red wines, European varieties are named for the region in which they're created, whereas American reds are labeled for the grape variety used. For instance, Beaujolais is a region which produces a wine from the Gamay grape; Bordeaux is a region which produces wine from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes; Valpolicella is a region in Italy which produces wine from Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes. Similar red wines in the U.S. would simply read "Merlot," Cabernet Sauvignon," Pinot Noir," etcetera.

"Red in Aspect, Sweet in Taste"

Red wines are typically intended to be enjoyed as part of a meal, rather than simply by themselves. Their complex, hearty flavors enhance nearly any meal. However, many people today enjoy a glass of red simply for its own pleasure. Most red wines taste their best at temperatures warmer than one would serve whites. Light fruity reds, like Beaujolais, taste their best at a relatively cool temperature, between 54 and 59 degrees. Medium bodied reds, like Pinot Noir, are best served between 59 and 63 degrees. Full bodied reds, like Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and red Zinfandel should be served at the warmer end of the temperature spectrum, between 63 and 68 degrees. As a general tip, less expensive wines of all varieties are better at the cooler end, expensive wines better at the warmer end. Granted, no one expects you to hold off serving until you've grabbed a thermometer. Instead, "newbies" might try drinking these wines at all three of these temperatures, so they get a feel without the need of a thermometer for the "just-right" temperature. In general, every red should be served at a temperature warm enough for all the flavors to be experienced, but still cool enough to be refreshing. Unless the temperature of your home is particularly chilly, a glass of red served even at the highest temperature should feel cool to the hand. One wants to avoid ever serving any red at a temperature above 70 degrees.


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