What is Red Wine?

It’s time to talk about red wine. You might think that you know all there is to know. It’s just red wine after all. But whether you’re new to wine, have been a white wine stalwart for too long, or you’re just refreshing your thinking on the rouge, there is always fun to be found in learning something new.

What is red wine?

Ok, starting out easy and warming up. Red wine is wine made from red grapes. Not the ones from the supermarket, but the several thousand varieties of dark-skinned grapes around the world. The red in red wine comes from the skin colour (almost all grape flesh is white) and when they wine is made, the skins remain in contact for a while to impart flavour and colour into the mix.


Red wines are often blended, bringing together lots of flavours to make interesting wines. This happens much more in red wine than white and can make understanding what’s in the bottle (especially in France) a bit of a challenge.


You’ll also find a lot of single grape varieties from Europe and around the world.

The Types and What to Expect

We mentioned there are several thousand red skinned grapes. That doesn’t mean you are going to drink several thousand yourself. In fact, the vast majority of wine use only a handful of varieties. It can be tricky to explain what you can expect from each of them as every bottle is so different, but we’ll give it a go!


What to Expect

Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s grown everywhere, so there are some differences between bottles, but expect dark, bold and full-bodied (higher alcohol) wine that tastes of dark fruit and peppery spices. There are usually plenty of tannins too.


Another worldwide grower, but this is much more mellow. Cherry and chocolate can be expected and less tannins, so it’s softer to sip on.

Pinot Noir

Soft and silky, Pinot Noir is hard to make well, but when it is, it’s great. Cherries and light fruit often accompany vanilla and earthy flavours for an always intriguing wine.


Syrah, or Shiraz in Australia, is heavy on the fruit, blueberries and blackberries, and has a bolder feel than other fruitier wines. Also has a lovely bit of spice for an added bonus, and medium tannins.


Deep and dark and full of flavour, Tempranillo is full of blackberry, and comes with a lot of savoury tastes like tobacco and cedar. They might not sound great, but with the fruit it balances brilliantly.


The classic steak grape, Malbec is smooth and seductive, full of cherry flavours and hints of raspberry. It’s very easy drinking.


You won’t hear much of this grape, but it’s the base for many an Italian red. It’s dry and acidic, but full of rich fruit. Often blended, it can be quite versatile in the flavours it creates, but all of them are good with Italian food.


The classic Spanish grape, it’s medium bodied and has lots of ripe red fruits with some cinnamon or spice notes. It’s also used in lots of blends to add depth of fruit flavours.


Gamay is red wine for easy drinking. Beaujolais is the classic Gamey wine and it’s full of light red fruit flavour and lower tannins than other reds. It tastes great when chilled too.


Finding a Banging Bottle

Obviously, here at Vintner!


Getting online for your wine can help you avoid the also rans of the red wine world. The supermarket is a difficult place to get right. There isn’t much help in finding a great bottle, and profit on each bottle can be as much as 50%, so there is less wine for your buck.


When it comes to red wine hunting, it’s good to start with what you know you like. If you like Pinot Noir (fast becoming the most popular grape in red wine) then you know to start, there and explore. Climate is a big player in what a wine tastes like, so if you want something big, bold, and ripe, warmer origins might be for you. If you prefer something cool and subtle, then French and other colder climbs are your go to.


Blends can be a bit trickier to decipher. The winemaker is being pretty artistic when blending, looking to balance different flavours to make something they think is great! It means you can’t just grab a Bordeaux and think it’s the same as others. The plus side is you can go exploring through a very exciting world of wine, but if you’re looking for something consistently great it’s not so simple.


What’s Cool This Autumn?

Low Calorie Reds

People are more health conscious now, and that extends to their wine choices too. Winemakers are helping out by making more brilliant bottles of low-calorie wine. One of our favourites, at less than 100 calories a glass, is this wonderful Beaujolais.


Organic Reds

Organic wine used to be a fringe event, but it’s more than mainstream now. People want to know their red wines are all natural, so organic vino is top of that list, and it’s delicious!


Reds From Other Countries

Sure, we’re used to reds from the big boys, but the smaller countries are making some amazing wines that often get overlooked. Greek wine has been scoring big at wine events everywhere, and others such as Bulgaria are becoming heavyweights too.


Sustainable Reds

Wine has a problem with sustainability. Between farming practices, shipping, and storage, it’s not easy to make wine in a way that’s good for the planet, but that needs to change. More producers know this and are making sustainable options that people are loving.

Written by Matt Mugan