So, what is a good red wine for beginners? A tough one since there are thousands of varieties and regions to choose from. Red wine is also harder to understand because of the huge stylistic variation, which very often, wine novices struggle to understand.
Hence, here too it is better to start with a light or medium-bodied red wine with moderate alcohol that does not overwhelm your taste buds. A “body type” in wine simply means how heavy or light the wine feels in your mouth.
Light-bodied wines have lighter tannins and are smoother, thus making them ideal for beginners. Tannins are what causes that astringent bitter taste in red wine that a lot of new wine drinkers find unpleasant and off-putting. Which is why less experienced wine drinkers are often heard asking for slightly sweeter red wines.
For this reason, I would suggest going for fruity wines that are straight-forward, big on fruit and flavour and not too complex. A Merlot or a Grenache/Garnacha blend fits the bill perfectly here. The fruit flavours that you can expect to find in red wine are cranberry, blackberry, ripe cherry, strawberry, raspberry and plum.
Start with less expensive wines since the costlier ones tend to be more complex and someone who is just venturing into the world of wine will find it difficult to fully comprehend the nuances and structure of these wines.
To understand the flavour profile of each grape variety, it is good to try out 100% varietals, if you can find.
In case you are a white wine drinker looking to switch over to red wine, then your best option is to go for a light or medium-bodied variety like Gamay (Beaujolais), Merlot, Grenache, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Barbera, to name a few. These can be drunk alone or paired with food.
Pinot Noir is very often mentioned in the list of wine for beginners as it is an elegant, light-bodied, fruit-forward wine with earthy herbal notes and medium to low tannins, making it an easy wine to approach. While the ones from New World countries like the U.S.A (look for Russian River Valley and Central Coast California & Willamette-style Oregon Pinot Noir), Chile and New Zealand are a good choice, the most highly prized and long ageing Pinot Noirs come from Burgundy France. All red Burgundy is actually Pinot Noir, just as all white Burgundy is Chardonnay.
The next step in your wine journey is to move towards full-bodied red wines that are big and bold with a deep red colour. These have the highest tannins and alcohol content of all the red wines and make an excellent pairing with rich fatty food.
These wines also have the highest levels of antioxidants and the following varietals Cabernet Sauvignon (very tannic when young), Syrah/Shiraz, Malbec, Pinotage and to some extent Californian Zinfandel fall in this category. The flavours that you find in these are dark fruit, chocolate, leather, liquorice, menthol and even tobacco.
One name I would like to add here is Rioja wine from Spain, which is predominantly Tempranillo. Rioja is the name of the wine and also the region in Spain where it is produced. Most beginners love this wine style.
Make sure you try out a different type of wine each time, taking it forward one glass or one bottle at a time. And don’t be afraid to ask questions.
The most common question I hear is if red wine can be drunk chilled. While there is no law against it, generally bitter as tannins in red wine tend to taste bitter as they get cold. So, the light-bodied red wines might benefit from a little cooling, the darker bolder reds will not taste good when cold.
By: Lavina Kharkwal