Red wine is a type of fermented beverage made from cultivars of Vitis vinifera, better known as the European grape. There are a wide range of beverages in the family of reds, ranging from hearty Zinfandels to earthy Merlots. The other main type of wine from grapes is white wine. “Red wine” is a huge category, encompassing a dizzying array of styles and flavors.
When red wine is made, the grapes are crushed whole and the skins are fermented along with the juice and body of the grapes. The skins are what give the wine its distinctive color; red wine grapes are red, deep purple, and sometimes even blue. Depending on the grape cultivar and how the wine is fermented, the wine can vary widely in color, and color is an important assessment tool used in the evaluation of wine.
White wine, by contrast, is made from pale grapes or grapes which are skinned before the fermentation process begins, and as a result it is pale in color rather than dark. White wines also have different flavor profiles than reds, which tend to be more tannic as a result of the included skins. These tannins can give reds a sharp flavor which is quite distinctive. The included skins also give wines some health benefits; grape skins and seeds contain antioxidants and a compound called resveratrol which is believed to be beneficial to human health.
Before you run out and buy several cases of wine as a “healthy investment,” be aware that wine has to be consumed in fairly large quantities for its benefits to be felt. Because large-scale alcohol consumption can cause some health problems, you would probably end up doing as much damage as you did good. Since the media is fond of trotting out stories about how red wine is good for consumers now and then, it can be useful to know that these stories are largely a load of bunkum.
Red wine tends to taste best when served in a large oval or egg shaped glass with a tapered top. It should ideally be poured in small amounts which allow drinkers to swirl and smell the wine in the glass before they consume it. The best serving temperature for reds varies, but it is generally between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit (15-18 degrees Celsius). You may find that reds also taste better when they are allowed to breathe before serving.
Some well known examples of red wine includes Shiraz, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet franc, Bordeaux, Grenache, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Pinot Noir. As you taste these varietals, you may want to look for common flavors like chocolate, earth, tobacco, fungus, and fruits which often appear in reds. You certainly do not need to be a wine snob to enjoy wine, and learning to distinguish flavors in wines can help you develop your own taste.