A guide to red wines

Written by timothy peckinpaugh
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A guide to red wines
Red wine acquires its hue from the skin of the grape. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Varieties of red wine differ based on the grapes used to make them. Unlike white wines, reds are fermented with the grape skin. Red wines pair well with a variety of meat and tomato-based dishes.


Red wines acquire their colour from the skin of the grapes. Once the grapes are harvested and crushed, the winemaker allows the grapes to ferment with the skins; when making white wine, the skins are removed. This process extracts the tannins and polyphenols, adding to the colour of the wine. After this process, the wine is aged for at least a year.


Varieties of red wine are named for the type of grapes used, such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Merlot. If a label names one variety, such as Syrah or Merlot, it is called a varietal wine, and the first letter is capitalised. Certain regions in the world are famous for producing red wines, including California, Chile, Argentina, Australia, France and Italy.


Decanting wine is the process in which wine "breathes" by mixing the contents with oxygen. This is done primarily with Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs, to allow the aromas of the wine to become more prominent in its taste. Pouring wines in a decanter and allowing to sit for a few hours before consuming it will allow plenty of time for the wine to breathe.


While red wine can be enjoyed alone or with a variety of dishes, certain wine and food pairings enhance and complement each other well. Beef, steak and wild game dishes pair well with Syrahs, Malbecs and Cabernets, while Pinot Noir complements fish and chicken dishes. Zinfandels work best alongside dishes with a tomato base, such as a pasta with tomato sauce or pizza. Finally, Merlots and Barberas are versatile and complement most dishes.

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