Know your red wines

In those scenes in movies where there’s a wine connoisseur expertly sipping and tasting a glass of wine, the wine is almost always red. There’s something grown up about not only being able to hold your red wine, but being able to appreciate it.

What makes red wine special, and different from other types of wine?

It starts with the fruit. Red wine is fermented from darker grapes that are red to almost black in colour. Dark or red grapes can also be used to make rosé and even white wine, but lighter grapes are never used for red wine. Method is also key, as compared to white wine where the grape skin is removed before fermentation, with red wine the skin is left on, allowing for deeper colour, flavour and a higher amount of tannins.

Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels

For many beginner to intermediate appreciators of wine, there may be those instances where you enjoyed a glass you were poured, but forgot to note what type of red wine you were sipping on. With the different varieties available, as well preferences of an individual’s palate, it is good practice for any budding wine enthusiast to know the subtle differences, and be able to choose or recommend their favourites.

Here’s a quick guide to four of the most common varieties of red wine.


Notable countries / regions where it’s produced:
France (Bordeaux) • USA (California) • South America (Chile)

Originating from Bordeaux, Merlot grapes are now the most widely planted grape variety in the world. Merlot is known to be smooth, easy to drink, and with fruitiness associated to plum and strawberry. Bordeaux wines, which are often a blend of red wines, often feature a Merlot.

Food pairings:
As quite a versatile wine, Merlot can accompany many kinds of dishes including savoury vegetables, tomato-based pastas, charred meats and shellfish. However, as it is a soft wine, it not recommended as a pairing for strong cheeses or spicy food.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Notable countries / regions where it’s produced:
France (Bordeaux) • USA (Napa Valley) • Australia

Also originating from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a medium-full to full-bodied wine. It is a wine that has character, with high amounts of tannin and acidity, and with potential for aging. Its fruit flavour profile is associated to black cherries and blackcurrants.

Food pairings:
As it is a bold wine, it can overpower light and delicate dishes. Consider pairing your Cabernet Sauvignon with meaty dishes such as steak or lamb, as not only should it pair well, the high amount of polyphenols in the wine will even help with digestion.

Pinot Noir

Notable countries / regions where it’s produced:
France (Burgundy) • USA (California) • Australia • New Zealand

From the Burgundy region of France (also known for the famous French dish beef bourguignon), Pinot Noir gets its name from the French words for ‘pine’ and ‘black’. It is a light to medium-bodied wine, and Pinot Noir grapes are also used to make Champagne. However, winemakers consider this wine unpredictable flavour wise, especially when it comes to aging. Its flavour profile offers fruit aromas of berries, but ripened wines can offer more complexity.

Food pairings:
As it might get overwhelmed by the flavours of a main course, you can serve Pinot Noir with your appetisers such as a mushroom hors-d’œuvre or light cheeses, as well as with a light dessert.

Shiraz / Syrah

Notable countries / regions where it’s produced:
USA (California) • Australia • New Zealand

While Shiraz and Syrah are technically not the same to true oenophiles, they can be considered cousins in that their similar flavour profiles offer a smoky and spicy degustation.

It is believed that Shiraz/Syrah grapes originated as the offspring of grapes from France, but this wine variety has now exploded in popularity in the USA and in Australia. A full-bodied wine, it is dense and complex, and makes a great offering for bona fide red wine lovers.

Food pairings:
This is the wine that won’t get lost in your spicy and heavy dishes! Serve your wine with barbecued and grilled meats, and even with curries.

Order your next bottle of red via the GemSpot app, under the ‘Beverage Delivery’ option! Stay tuned for more delivery promotions and specials in the coming months by following our Facebook or Instagram @mygemspot.

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