As most of you may know, my fiancé is in the wine business so, over the last two years, I have had an opportunity to drink some unbelievable wines and tour some of the most breathtaking vineyards here in the U.S, as well as in France and Italy.
At this point, one would think I’d know an awful lot about wine, right? Ummmm, not so much…
I’m ashamed to admit that I know what I like but that’s about the extent of my wine knowledge. I fell in love with Rose so I made it a point to educate myself and now this week I’m going to tackle red wine and next week, champagne. Then I’ll do a blog about which glasses to use (I’m constantly confused) and what you need to have a well-stocked bar (this would be necessary as I realized I didn’t have shot glasses the other night- I still don’t know how that happened).
Lets start with the basics~
Red wine is usually named for the primary grape that is used to make it in most new world wine regions, such as the U.S., South America, and Australia (Cabernet is a type of grape!). However in old world wine regions, such as Italy, France, and Spain, wines are typically named for the region in which they are grown (Bordeaux comes from the Bordeaux region in France).
The grape’s skin is what gives red wine it’s beautiful, rich red color. Red wine’s colors vary due to the particular type of grape used, as well as how long the skins are in contact with the grape’s juice during the fermentation process.
The most common red wine varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandal, Shiraz, Petite Sirah, and Malbec. Familiarize yourself with these and you’ll do just fine ordering from almost any wine list.
So what’s the difference between all these wines? Lets see if you’ve followed along so far…
It’s all about the grapes!
Take Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s originally from Bordeaux but now is all over the California coast. Cabernet grapes need to mature a bit longer than other grapes so their flavors mellow beautifully and blend nicely with other grapes, usually Merlot. Cabs range from medium-bodied to full-bodied and are characterized by their high tannin content. They’ve got structure and rich fruit characteristics. Flavors you may pick up on include plum, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, warm spice, vanilla, tobacco and sometimes even leather aromas.
Merlot is another grape that originated in France. Merlot is more of a “fruity” wine, not as strong-bodied as a Cab.
Now on to my favorite, Pinot Noir. Similar to a Merlot, Pinot Noir is a lighter-bodied wine with lots of fruit flavors. You may find Pinot Noir to be a bit more expensive than other red wines and this is because the grapes are not has hardy and abundant as some of the other varietals.
Next up, Zinfandel. Admittedly, I thought this was a white wine and it can be, but the grape itself is red. Who knew? For White Zinfandel the skin is quickly removed so you’re left with a rose/blush colored wine. The grape, which is known for its rich, dark color scheme, makes a wine with medium to high tannin levels and a higher alcohol content. Zinfandel’s flavors include raspberry, blackberry, cherry, plums, raisins, spice and black pepper.
Here are a few bottles at various price points to get you started~
Jordan (Sonoma, California $50)
Franciscan (Napa Valley, California $22)
Duckhorn (Napa Valley, California $40)
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Merlot (Australia $10)
Flowers (California (personal favorite!) $45)
Veramonte (Chile $12)
Gnarly Head (California $10)
Ravenswood (Sonoma, California $25)
Finally, although you don’t need a reason to enjoy a glass of fabulous red wine, Dr. Oz recently did a segment on how a glass of red wine a day can help you lose belly fat. Red wine also contains antioxidants that may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. I’ll drink to that!