While there are many types of wine, from white to pink, to even blue, when you utter the word usually one picture comes to mind: a dark crimson glass of red wine. Unsurprisingly, red wine is the most popular variety in the world, and it is drunk on all continents (including Antarctica) with most countries having their preferred brand, and many even the specific local breed of grapes.
But, not all red wines are created equal, and while every type of wine can be of higher or lower quality, there are significant differences between red wines when it comes to their place of origin, the way they were made, preserved, and bottled.
Red wine can be separated into three broad categories depending on their boldness. Now, it is not an exact science to know where light-bodied wines end and medium-bodied ones begin, but there is a significant difference further down the specter you go. While only an experienced sommelier will notice the difference between a youthful Sangiovese and an oak-aged Montepulciano that has 15% of Sangiovese in it, even a wine tasting beginner will see the difference between a light and easy Pinot Noir and a strong earthy tones coming from a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Impact of Climate
Not to dwell on chemistry and physics too much, but it is important to know that the light that hits vineyards in the tropical regions give a lot more energy to the grapes than those in colder latitudes. This energy is converted into sugar, and in return that sugar will make the wine much stronger. Additionally, as grapes from warmer regions are also bigger, they pull in more nutrients from the soil, which provides the fruit with more earthy aromas.
In theory, this difference would work for any species of wine grapes, but physics and chemistry are not the only things that influence which region will produce which wines, as economy also comes into play here. While it is possible to grow Merlot in cooler climates, especially using modern technology, it will not produce as much a Pinot Noir, meaning that the vineyard will be less profitable. Comparative advantage by region is very important for wine, as winemakers want to give themselves any assistance they can as to produce a superior wine every year.
While some might see this segregation as a bad thing, the end result of the global wine economy has produced more superior wines in the last 50 years than any time before, and it is not uncommon for wines made less than ten years ago to be dubbed as ‘’best wines in the world”. As winemakers have a wider variety of species to choose from they will focus more on creating better wines, than just to make wine in bulk that will sell on the local market.
Light-bodied Red Wine
Unlike the production of rose wine or white wine, the less bold red wine is not a product of the juice being intentionally separated from the skin early, but rather that the skin itself doesn’t have as many nutrients and pigments as other wine varieties. The result is a fresh, light wine with low sugar content and relatively high acidity. These wines are usually drunk young with only a few grapes being preferred once aged, as they typically develop a visible bitterness in time. The texture of these wines is generally smooth, and they have a spreading aroma reminiscent of red fruit flavors.
Or Beaujoulais how it is often called has the lightest body of all wines with cherry flavors and high acidity. This wine is usually drunk young when the acidity is refreshing, and as it is aged, it develops green stem bitterness.
As Pinot Noir is a very adaptable fruit, it can be found in vineyards in different latitudes. This means that the aroma of this variety can differ depending on the region, with warmer areas such as California giving a slightly darker color with black cherry flavors, and colder regions such as Oregon giving a much lighter color and higher acidity, more akin to red cherry.
Medium-bodied Red Wine
This category is by no means small, and the wines that are considered to be medium-bodied can range from a very light Garnacha to very bold Zinfandel. When you are trying to select wine for dinner, knowing that it is medium bold is not a really important piece of information, but it is a good start for novice wine lovers to begin their experience from the middle, and then go lighter or bolder depending on their preferences.
The variety of this wine produced in France has a slightly bolder body and an aroma more alike to bell peppers, and even a hint of black pepper. The domestic variety has a lighter body with more cherry-like flavors or even cherry jam.
This Italian grape is probably the best example of a medium-bodied wine. On the one hand, it is very fresh, very acidic, and is usually drunk very young, but on the other, it has a smoky texture and quite a bit of tannin, often found in full-bodied wines.
Full-bodied Red Wine
This blood-red category is usually dubbed as the king of wines, as it is the preferred category on multiple metrics, including sales. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular wine in the world, and while Merlot sometimes contends it, even Merlot is on the bolder side than most wines.
The boldest of wines have a dark crimson color that is almost black in bigger bottles, as well as high sugar content and strong scents and earthy textures. These wines are very rich in tannins, with the boldest of all wines, Tannat, even being the reason for the name of tannin.
As Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most produced wines in the world, it is expected that the subtle notes will vary depending on the region and the climate. Additionally, this wine is very susceptible to the barrel it is kept in, so those would-be winemakers should note this. The core aroma can range from raspberry to blueberry, depending on the climate, and there will usually be a hint of bell pepper taste, as well as tobacco flavor.
Petite Sirah is very inky and very sticky, as it has a high sugar and high tannin content. While there are people who like consuming wines made predominantly from this variety, it is usually used as an addition when more intensity is needed in other wines.
It is impossible for oneself to indulge in good wine without trying the red wine at some point, and for many wine lovers, this is the only variety they are willing to try repeatedly. For those that prefer red wine, it is good to know that they are able to taste dozens of types of red, with hundreds of varieties of vineyards, in their search to find that kind that is perfect for them.
Due to the number of grapes in existence, it is not always easy to determine the exact location that the wine comes from, but even wine novices will be able to ascertain the boldness of the wine. Clearer, lighter, and more acidic wines are considered light-bodies and they have a red fruit scent, while bolder wines are higher in sugar, tannin, and darker in color.
With this information, there is nothing left but to go out and find your favorite variety, or multiple varieties, that you will enjoy for a long time due to all of the health benefits provided by red wine.