Ladies and gentlemen, wine enthusiasts and occasional sippers, and everyone who’s ever stared bewilderingly at a wine list – brace yourselves! As luck would have it, today is Red Wine Day, and we’re about to embark on a vinous journey that will not only elevate your wine game, but also have you sipping in style.
Have you ever been caught in that age-old conundrum of choosing a bottle of red, only to end up feeling like a lost sheep in a vineyard? Well, fret not, because today, we’re here to rescue you from the land of wine-related befuddlement.
But wait, there’s more! We have wine expert Sonal Holland with us to spill the grapes, and uncork the mysteries of red wine.
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So, whether you’re a seasoned sipper or a budding sommelier, this guide is your passport to navigating the world of red wine with ease. From decoding the nuances that set red wine apart from its grapey counterparts to helping you select the perfect bottle for your palate, and even mastering the art of wine lingo, we’ve got it all covered.
TLM’s ultimate guide to drinking red wine the right way
We got Holland to answer questions that will help you decode all things red wine.
Q. What sets red wine apart from other types of wine?
Red wine is made from black grapes. It gets its colour from the pigments present in the grape skins which dyes the juice after the grapes are crushed. The higher the intensity of the pigment in the grape skins and the duration for which they are soaked in the juice, the more intense the colour.
Apart from the colour, what makes it distinct is the presence of tannins. Its bitter and astringent taste gives the wine a beautiful complexity. Tannins also give the wine the potential to age for decades, due to which it develops distinct flavour notes like leather, dried fruit, mushrooms, tobacco and more.
Q. What are some key factors to consider when choosing a bottle of red wine?
The first factor, of course, is price. I would advise beginners to go for affordable wines that are easy-drinking (fruity and smooth), rather than premium wines that might not click with you instantly.
Second is what wine to buy. Always buy wine from a reputed producer. Even the most entry-level wine made by a trusted producer will be well-made and will taste better than a generic wine with no established brand name.
Third is what kind of red wine to buy. As a beginner, go for affordable red wines from warmer regions. The south of France, Spain, Portugal, Australia, some regions of California, South Africa and Chile are all wine regions that get natural sunshine and warmth. This helps to ripen the grape perfectly and make wines that are bursting with fruity flavours and are great for beginners.
Q. What are some common terms that we should know to help us order red wine like a pro?
Here are some common terms that’ll help you when selecting and ordering red wine:
- Fruit forward: A red wine that has dominant fruit flavours, typically of red fruits and black fruits like cherry, blackberry, black plum etc.
- Savoury: A red wine with dominant earthy or herby flavours like leather, mushrooms, peppercorn, sage etc.
- Bone Dry/Dry/ Sweet: These refer to the level of residual sugar in the red wine.
Q. What are the steps to taste red wine the proper way for someone who is new to it?
The 5S method works for all styles of wine:
- See! Observe the colour of the wine.
- Swirl the wine to aerate it. This interaction with air oxidises the wine and unlocks different types of aromas in it.
- Sniff the wine. Pause for a few seconds and think about all the aromas you smell.
- Sip! Now it’s time to take a small sip and swish the wine in your mouth. Don’t worry about all the strange looks you may get. Instead, focus on what you taste.
- Savour! Lastly, cherish the wine. Appreciate all its nuances and do not rush to empty your glass. If you truly want to enjoy your red wine then sip it slowly.
Q. Could you decode the key components of wine tasting for us?
There’s more to tasting wine than just decoding its flavours when you sip it. Here are some parameters that professional wine tasters use:
- Aroma: The bouquet of smells that is unique to each wine
- Body: The weight of the wine on your tongue is known as the body. A red wine can be light, medium or full-bodied.
- Finish: This refers to how long the pleasant sensations linger on your palate after you have swallowed the wine. A long finish is a hallmark of all high-quality wines.
- Balance: All the key components of a wine like acid, sugar, tannins, alcohol and fruit are in tandem in a well-balanced wine.
Q. Getting red wine and food pairings right can be intimidating. Are there any hacks we can use to make it easier?
Here are some tips to help simplify food and wine pairings:
- Wine and foods from the same region always pair well with each other.
- Cabernet Sauvignon wine is flavoursome, rich, and full-bodied. It pairs beautifully with equally robust, heartwarming foods like galouti kebabs.
- For Indian BBQ enthusiasts, a light and elegant Pinot Noir with a creamy yet tangy paneer tikka is a combination to swear by.
Q. What is the ideal temperature for serving red wine?
Getting your red wine to the right serving temperature is very important. If the wine is too cold, its aromas and flavours will be muted. If the red wine is served too warm its tannins may seem harsh and astringent, and the alcohol will overpower all other elements of the wine. The ideal temperature to serve red wine is 15 °C -18 °C.
Q. Do different red wines require specific types of glassware?
This has been a subject of debate for a long time. However, most wine experts, including me, believe that having different types of glassware for different styles of red wine is impractical and inconvenient.
For red wine, use a wine glass with a large and rounded bowl. This gives you a lot of room to swirl the wine and aerate it. The glass should also have inward-sloping rims to allow the aromas in the wine to be concentrated in the glass and enhance the appreciation of your wine.
Q. Can you tell us a little about the most popular varieties of red wine?
Two of the most popular varietals in India are Pinot Noir, which is loved for its elegance, sublime flavours and ability to pair with a variety of cuisines and preparations and Cabernet Sauvignon, which lies on the opposite side of the spectrum with its bold flavours and intensity. Many people also like Merlot, as it is a middle-of-the-road wine that is well-rounded and easy-drinking.
Q. Are there any lesser-known red wine varietals that you believe deserve more attention?
One of the most underrated red wine varietals is Cabernet Franc. The grape variety (which has the same name) is a parent to many popular grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine packs a punch with its high acidity and medium to high levels of tannins. It also has a great ageing potential.
Q. What are the emerging trends in the world of red wine that TLM readers should know about?
The biggest trend to emerge in the world of wine, and not just red wines, in recent years is a shift to sustainable winemaking. All over the world, winemakers are brainstorming how they can reduce their carbon footprint and this has led to innovation in packaging and other areas of production.
Winemakers no longer use heavy glass bottles; they have switched to lighter ones. Wine now comes in cans and bottles that have screw caps. These changes do not affect the quality of wine but play a huge role in increasing sustainability in the wine industry.
Q. What advice would you offer to someone who is just beginning to explore the world of red wine?
Always keep an open mind and trust your palate. It is okay if you don’t like a popular or high-quality wine. If it doesn’t work for your palate then you don’t have to force yourselves to like it.
Another advice would be to try as many as you can, instead of sticking to your favourites all the time. Red wine is immensely diverse, with a wide range of colours, and an infinite range of aromas and flavours. Every wine you try will be different from the others and you’ll explore something new with every sip. So keep learning and keep exploring, and red wines will never disappoint you.