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Beginner's Guide: Red Wine Appreciation (2 things you need to know)

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Taking a sip of red wine is like tasting an archaic piece of art. Its rich history dates to as far back as 7000 B.C, with its roots in China (bet you weren’t expecting that). Since then, wine has evolved from Ancient World Wine – made in China, Armenia, Iran, and Egypt to Old World Wine – made across Europe, the Mediterranean, and Middle East, and finally now to New World Wine – made in New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, California, and Canada. To appreciate the intricacies of red wine, GudSht has listed the 2 things you need to know before taking that first sip. Remember, that first glass of wine is always the best so savour it.

1. Making red wine

As most of us know, wine is produced from grapes. To have grapes, we need vines. The appellation (region) and climate determine what type of vines are most suitable. Cool climate reds include Pinot Noir and Zweigelt, while warm climate reds include Shiraz and Zinfandel. The climate also influences the flavour and colour of the grapes, but more of this when we dive into grape varietals.

The grapes are harvested by hand once they have reached their desired ripeness. The grapes are sorted according to their quality and grade. They are then crushed. Some wineries still use pre-machine techniques of crushing the grapes with their hands and feet (I wonder if this adds to the flavour as well…). After being done with all the messy work, the grapes are fermented with their skins on at high temperatures for a minimum of 5 days. Once fermentation is complete, the grapes are pressed to extract the juices and remove the skin and pulp.

The next few steps are where creativity and flair come in to create the wine’s complex flavour profiles. The extracted juices are then matured in oak vats, oak barrels, or stainless-steel tanks. The selected ageing vessel is what gives character to the wine. Post-ageing, the winemakers then blend wines from different varietals, vineyards, and vintages to create a unique and balanced bottle.

GudSht recommends Penfolds Bin 8 Shiraz Cabernet to enjoy a medium bodied red with a bouquet that celebrates grapes from both warm and cool climates. Expect flavours of plummy fruits and spice.

2. Grape varietals and their flavour profiles

As mentioned earlier, red wine can vary greatly in colour, flavour, body, and character depending on the grape varietal used and the climate they grow in. Here is a list of the more popular varieties:

Barbera (Full & Fruity)

  • High acidity with low tannins.

  • Taste profile: Flavours of blackberry, dark cherry, and strawberry. With ageing notes of tobacco and spice appear, including nutmeg and star anise.

  • Wine regions: Italy, USA, Argentina

Cabernet Franc (Medium & Fruity)

  • Well-rounded. Medium to high tannins. Medium to high acidity.

  • Taste profile: Aromas of fresh red fruit (strawberry and raspberry), with hints of green capsicum and white pepper.

  • Wine regions: France, Italy, USA, Chile

Cabernet Sauvignon (Full & Fruity)

  • High tannins. Bold and full bodied.

  • Taste profile: Intense and unctuous black fruit flavours of blackcurrant, blackberries, and cherry. The wine develops prominent savoury notes including cedar, tobacco, chocolate, mint, and eucalyptus.

  • Wine region: France, Chile, USA, Australia, Spain

Carignan (Medium)

  • High tannins and high acidity.

  • Tasting notes: Red berry flavours of raspberry and cherry. Spicy notes that include, cinnamon, cloves, and liquorice.

  • Wine region: France, Spain, Italy, USA

Grenache (Light & Juicy)

  • Medium body with low tannins.

  • Tasting notes: Juicy red fruits (strawberry & raspberry) backed with spice notes of cinnamon, white pepper, herbs and even leather after ageing.

  • Wine region: France, Spain, Italy, USA

Malbec (Full & Fruity)

  • High tannins and high alcohol, with a medium to full body. Great for oak ageing.

  • Taste profile: Dark fruit flavours (blackberry & plum), black pepper and smoky notes of tobacco with a long finish. See if you can detect subtle sweet notes of vanilla, chocolate and liquorice as well!

  • Wine region: Argentina, France, New Zealand, Australia

Merlot (Full & Fruity)

  • Smooth and well-rounded. Low acidity with high alcohol levels. Level of tannins depends on the climate (cooler climates have lower tannins compared to warmer climates).

  • Taste profile: Flavours of plum, blackberries, cherries, and red fruits with chocolatey and spicy notes.

  • Wine region: France, Italy, Chile, Spain, Australia

Pinot Noir (Light & Juicy)

  • Delicate flavours with low tannins.

  • Taste profile: Smooth red fruit flavours (strawberry, raspberry, and cherry) with an earthy, smoky edge. Notes of wet leaf and mushroom develop with age.

  • Wine region: France, Germany, New Zealand, USA

Sangiovese (Classic)

  • Medium body, high tannins, and characteristically high acidity.

  • Taste profile: Savoury and earthy flavours with aromas of cherry and fig. On the palette you can detect flavours of sour cherry, cranberry and red plum, with subtle notes of roasted pepper and tomato. With ageing, the wine develops richer, plummier flavours, as well as hints of coffee, leather, spice and smoky nuances.

  • Wine regions: Argentina, Italy, France, USA

Shiraz (Full & Fruity)

  • High tannins with medium acidity.

  • Taste profile: Herbaceous notes, earthy nuances, spicy black pepper, and flavours of smoked meat. Toasty aroma along with complex notes of old leather, tobacco, and wet leaves. Younger Shiraz display sweeter notes of liquorice, raisins, and chocolate, with vanilla and coconut.

  • Wine regions: France, Australia, South Africa, Chile

Temperanillo (Full & Fruity)

  • Dry with medium to full body with relatively high tannin structure.

  • Taste profile: Rounded, smooth, and complex flavours. Red fruit flavours of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry, along with a hint of fig. Notes of tobacco, leather, cedar, and spice are also present

  • Wine regions: Spain, Portugal, Argentina, France, USA

Zinfandel (Full & Fruity)

  • High alcohol content, medium tannins, and generous acidity.

  • Taste profile: Blackberry, blackcurrant, raspberry, and cherry flavours. You may also experience notes of aniseed, smoke, and black pepper

  • Wine regions: USA, Italy, Australia

As said by Ernest Hemingway, “A person with increasing knowledge and sensory education may derive infinite enjoyment from wine.” Explore GudSht’s extensive range of red wines and enjoy every sip!

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