Ask Peter: How to Choose Red Wine

In general, red wines are tailored to people who fancy flavorsome, full-bodied beverages. I am going to assume you want the best of the best, just like me. Well, the only problem is that shelves are packed with products that lure you with promises of best-tasting wine experience ever. In truth, to pick a winning wine, you have to get adventurous and explore the many avenues of wine testing. That is how you find that perfect product that hits the spot for you: somewhere out there, it is surely waiting for you.

Some like it red

The art of choosing the most exquisite wine takes time to master. You could say it is a long process of trial and error. Wine recommendations are almost always subjective, so you should really find out what floats your boat. The only way to do this is to try out as many grape varietals as humanly possible. Then again, there are some telltale signs of greatness you should keep an eye on.

First off, familiarize yourself with taste differences between red and white wine. The former has a higher level of alcohol and tannin as well as a different flavor profile and body. These distinct qualities stem from the fermentation process, where grape skins float in the tank together with the juice. Next comes the aging process (in the bottle or the barrel). It can be either altered or left to take its course.

So, the key takeaway is that fermentation and aging pose two mainstays of red wine quality, flavor, and character.

Different strokes for different folks

One crucial thing to note is that aging and vintage aromas, although oozing that much-revered prestigious vibe, may not be your thing. You could say they are more of an acquired taste. Therefore, you might want to get to know main grape varieties before committing to a single type of wine.

First off, Pinot Noir is one of the most popular choices. It is also a good test sample because it contains a higher level of acidity. What you feel is a puckering sensation that fizzy drinks have, which is coupled with fruity nature. So, if you like that, you will probably also adore other acidic reds in the league of Grenache.

Shiraz variant, on the other hand, is the paragon of full-bodied wines. It tends to contain darker flavors like chocolate, plum, and tobacco. Hence, it features that milky, velvety quality some people cannot get enough of. See it for yourself and pour a glass of something like Wendouree Shiraz Mataro 2015. If it pleases you as much as it does me, you might also want to try Malbec.

Should you remain unimpressed, go for tannins. Cabaret Sauvignon is one of the most tannic wines that leaves your mouth dry. This is the small price you pay for tasting a rich, spicy flavor. That is why in the world of fancy wining and dining, it tends to be paired with red meat. Chianti, Merlot, and Rioja wines have similar properties and could be a nice option as well.

Finally, I have something for those who think that relatively high alcohol level of red wines is not high enough. Zinfandel is on the upper end of the scale, boasting around 15% ABV. This is certainly a more intense experience that is not for everyone. So, do not let the sweet, fruity flavor fool you. Madeira is another good example of high-alcohol wine.

Sublime pleasure

After you figure out the type, you need to find the brand. Remember that you usually get what you pay for. Trusted brands and expensive wines are a safe bet. So, compromising on quality is not advisable, not if you are serious about your wine adventures. A cheap product could hamper your satisfaction, even if it is your favorite type of wine.

Pay attention to the intensity or the ability to identify the flavors. The higher it is, the better the wine should be. Finally, note that quality wine sports a fine balance of flavors, which means it is well structured and designed. You can also adhere to the “three “Ps” rule and find that seamless blend of pricing, pairing, and preference. Accept nothing less than a flawless wine experience.

Mouthful of heaven

Tastes differ from person to person, but real quality always stands out. How you approach the quest for the perfect wine will determine its ultimate result. I have seen people who have tried too few wines, yet they are convinced they found the right one. In a sense, wine discovery is like dating. You need to keep an open mind and step out of your comfort zone. Try to learn from your mistakes until you find wine that hits all the right notes for you.  

Peter Minkoff, Associate Editor


  1. Thank you so much! I’m glad that you enjoyed it!

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