Red wine is one of the most popular drinks enjoyed around the world. Whether people are celebrating, eating or just unwinding many choose to do so with a glass of red wine. If you’re not a wine drinker, you might be wondering – what does red wine taste like?
As popular as red wine is, its taste is very subjective. The varying tastes of red wine are as diverse as the many brand options you have to choose from. You might find one option to be sweet and enjoyable while another dry with a bitter after taste. How do you know the difference?
Why are there so many different tastes to red wine? What are different reds made of? How do you know which you’d enjoy best? Why do wine lovers have a specific wine tasting procedure? Today’s article will answer these popular questions asked by people thinking of joining the wine drinking elite!
A Few Important Red Wine Need-to-knows
When you’re trying to understand the exact taste of red wine, there are a few important and interesting facts to know. Read on to find out what red wine is as well as how it smells and tastes. We’ve also included a few need-to-know terms you’ll need to know when you’re describing the taste of red wine.
What Is Red Wine?
In a nutshell, red wine is a drink made from the fermented juice of various dark-colored grapes. Wine contains alcohol which varies between 6% and 14%, depending on the selection you’ve chosen.
Generally, red wine is produced by fermenting grape juice until it turns to alcohol. Sugar is then added to the process to balance the taste of the grape’s natural sweetness. Typically red wine is aged in large oak barrels for several years before it’s bottled and sold commercially.
How Does Red Wine Taste?
Red wine enthusiasts don’t often agree on their description of the way red wine tastes. That’s because each person’s palate is different. How you describe the taste also depends on you perceive the tastes of different tannins. But, for the most part, red wine has a dark, sweet flavor. Some wines are drier and might even be considered bitter.
A good red wine should have a balance of sweet, sour and bitter elements. While a salty flavor is rare, a spicy flavor is remarkably common for some red wine variations
Does Red Wine Taste Like Grape Juice?
Since wine is made from grapes, some inexperienced wine drinkers might expect wine to taste exactly like, or very similar to grape juice. The reality though is that while there’s a similar taste to most, some don’t taste like grape at all.
Despite being made of grapes, the fermentation process converts the fruity sugar to alcohol giving the wine a much sharper taste. Red wine also has a combination of different fruity flavors that combine to create the perfect balance. While grape juice has a sweet sugary taste, wine has a more robust flavor. Many people refer to wine as “grape juice for adults”.
If you prefer your red wine to taste similar to grape juice, the good news, there are a few wines you can try. A few popular wines with a strong grape flavor are listed below:
- Pinot Noir
How Does Red Wine Smell?
Based on the levels of fermentation in red wine production, most reds have an intense, robust aroma. A combination of fruity aromas, woody notes and hints of spice and sometimes chocolate make many red wines very nose-friendly.
Understanding Red Wine Terms
When you hear wine connoisseurs speaking of their favorite reds, you might hear terms like full-bodied, tannins, semi-sweet and dry. What do they all mean and how do they affect the taste? Keep reading to find out!
- Light-bodied: The term “light-bodied” refers to wines made to have fruity tastes. They’re light and crisp in your mouth and are ideal for pairing with lunches or other light meals.
- Medium-bodied: Slightly heavier red wines with fruity flavors are referred to as being medium-bodied.
- Full-bodied: Wines that are referred to as full-bodied aren’t ideal for beginners. They have a more complex, dry taste. They might be considered bitter or acidic if not paired with the right food types.
- Tannin: A common wine term, tannin, refers to the substance found naturally in the skins of grapes. Since red wines are fermented with their skins on, they’ll have higher tannin levels. Essentially this means red wines are more acidic than white wines. A wine with a higher tannin will have a more bitter taste than others. Tannin is experienced on the inside of your mouth, on your cheeks and on your gums. This will give you an indication of the texture or tannin of the wine. Tannin usually leaves your mouth feeling dry. So, the drier your mouth feels, the higher the tannin.
Popular Red Wines and Their Varying Flavors
While there are a huge variety of red wines, each with its own particular taste, there are a few that are immensely popular. Some of the tastier options include the following:
- Red Zinfandel: This red is well-known for its bold and robust flavors. Most wineries produce their own in-house Zinfandels with specifically designed flavors. Their high alcohol content makes this wine an excellent complement to savory foods.
- Malbec: Originally produced in Argentina, this popular red wine has a combination of dark fruit flavors with a mild hint of spice. Malbecs flavorful aromas and tasty flavor make it a popular option with beef dishes.
- Shiraz: Commonly produced in France or Australia, Shiraz has a robust fruit and spice flavor. Since it boasts a higher acidity level than most red wines, it’s an ideal complement for casseroles and curries.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Considered by some wine connoisseurs as the best red wine this delicious wine is somewhat complex. Cabernet Sauvignon takes years for the tannins to mellow out and mix with its different flavors to form the perfect balance.
- Merlot: If you enjoy chocolate and cherry flavors, you’ll be delighted to know that Merlot combines both these flavors to create an exceptional balance. This tasty wine isn’t dry and unlike many other reds, leaves your mouth feeling moist and refreshed. Merlot is a wine that pairs exceptionally well with pasta and light beef dishes.
- Pinot Noir: For people who prefer a lighter red wine with higher acidity, Pinot Noir is the ideal option. Pinot Noir is dry with an array of earthy flavors. Depending on where the grapes are grown, the earthy flavors are replaced with fruitier tones. Since it’s light and crisp, it can be enjoyed with any meal.
Learn more about red wine:
How to Experience the Red Wine Taste
If you’re new to the wine enjoying experience, experts recommend easing into the process. Choosing the “wrong” wine to start with might leave you thinking red wine is bitter and totally not worth the fuss! Start with a light Pinot Noir and work your way up to a strong full-bodied Cabernet.
You might also have seen wine aficionados have a specific routine that they practice. The goal of this is to appreciate the aroma as well as the robust flavor. Appreciating the true taste of red wine is a process. Some tips to consider when you’re tasting red wine for the first time include the following steps.
- Always swirl the wine before taking a sip. This releases the aroma, giving you a better idea of the flavors.
- Wine, like other drinks, should never be gulped. Always sip from the edge of the glass. Doing this allows the air to enter through your nose easier. You can easily soak up the aroma of the wine.
- After the first sip, give the glass a light swirl to create balance in the flavor. If you’re tasting more than one wine, this will be a good way to differentiate the flavors.
- Remember to make notes of your favorites and be sure to experiment with options from different wineries to broaden your palate.
- The more types of red wine you taste, the better your palate will develop, and you’ll soon be part of the wine drinking elite!
While it’s true that red wines aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, you owe it to your palate to experiment with a few quality variants. The wine options we’ve mentioned in this article are a good place to start your wine journey.
Do some research before serving red wine at your next dinner party. Some wines pair better with certain dishes. But, as you progress with your tasting experience, you’ll soon be an expert at finding the right flavor for your favorite dishes!