Red wine and sweetness
When we categorise red wines at VINELLO, one of the criteria we use is sweetness (or lack thereof). Nevertheless, it is not only the wine’s residual sugar that determines whether you have a dry red wine or a sweet one: its acidity structure, alcohol content and tannins also play a role. And the aroma of a red wine is also an important component of its flavour.
Some red wines are so dry that they pull your moth together and even make your lips stick to your teeth. A sweet red wine, on the other hand, can have an almost oily texture and coat the inside of the glass. And a medium-dry red wine might taste almost sweet to you while another might describe it as dry or sour. Why? That’s likely due to each individual’s sensitivity to tannins. People who have an increased amount of protein in their saliva don’t perceive tannins as drying. The drying effect of the tannins in red wine is also decreased when the wine is enjoyed with salty or rich dishes.
Acidity influences our sense of sweetness as well – sour counteracts sweet. A red wine with a higher acidity content tastes drier than a red wine with less acidity, even if both contain the same amount of residual sugar. Especially with wines grown in northern regions or at high altitudes where the growth period isn’t long enough for the grapes to reach full ripeness and break down acids, the wines are deliberately made to contain a few extra grams of residual sugar.
And as they say, ‘the nose knows’. If a medium sweet red wine smells sweet, it also tastes sweet to us. Notes of sweet blossoms, vanilla or stewed plums and cherries are examples of aromas that are perceived as sweet.
But at the end of the day, residual sugar does play the largest role, and there are empirical guidelines used to classify wines according to sweetness. In general, a sweet red wine has a residual sugar content of more than 45 g/l. A medium-sweet wine contains between 13 and 44 g/l, medium dry red wine between 5 and 18 g/l, and dry red wine can have up to 9 g/l. The numbers overlap because the total acidity also comes into the equation.
The origin of red wine and its winegrowing regions
There are hundreds of red grape varieties all over the world that are as different as their names – from Abbuotu to Zweigelt. And depending upon where the grapes grow, they also exhibit unique characteristics. Nevertheless, most of us will (unfortunately) only ever encounter a fraction of them during our lifetimes. But where do they come from? And where do which grape varieties grow?
Although grapes have served as food for men since the early Stone Age, the production of red wine – and winegrowing – did not begin until about 6000 BCE in what are now Georgia and Iran. Today red wine grapes can be found on almost every continent, but they have the longest tradition in Europe. Even though certain grape varieties are grown in many countries, there are still regionally typical types of red wine grapes.
Spanish red wine makes up roughly 15 % of red wine production worldwide. Spain is the third largest red wine producer, just after Italy and France, and is especially well known for its Tempranillo and Garnacha wines. The famous Bordeaux, on the other hand, is a French red wine from the Bordeaux region. The Touriga Nacional is a very popular grape variety in Portugal. And the Portugieser isn’t a Portuguese red wine at all, but a German red wine, which is very popular along with the Pinot Noir aka Spätburgunder.
Red wine varietals
Some wine connoisseurs consider Italian red wine the very best of all. Naturally, that is something everyone has to decide for themselves. The fact is, however, that Italy has the largest wine production in the world. It is now home to over 20 wine growing regions, hundreds of DOCs, and the volume of the Italian wine production alone – 45 to 50 million hectolitres per year – is unbelievable.
Although numerous red wine varietals are cultivated in Italy, eight of them are especially important:
- Nero d‘Avola
- Primitivo (known as Zinfandel in the New World)
Barolo wine is a famous red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape, which is almost impossible to grow in high quality outside of Italy. A well-made Barolo has a balanced tannin structure and notes of , e.g. tar, roses, violets, raspberries, truffles, dried plums, cherries and tobacco.
Lambrusco is also a well-known red wine made from the grape of the same name, which is primarily grown in the Emilia-Romagna region. First class red wines can be found in every Italian wine growing region. One of the most popular red wines of Italy is, of course, the Chianti. The main role in Chianti wines is played by the Sangiovese grape variety, which thrives especially well under the soil and climate conditions in the Tuscan Chianti DOCG and Chianti Classico DOCG regions.
Food pairing: What does red wine go well with?
Food pairing is the catchphrase when it comes to harmony between wine and food. ‘Red wine with red meat, white wine with light meats and fish’ used to be the rule. It’s really not that straightforward (or rigid) – but so much more exciting! There are, however, a few general guidelines:
Lighter red wines such as St. Laurents, Pinot Noirs, Gamays or Zweigelts go well with roasted vegetable dishes, starchy foods, poultry and cured or smoked meats. Medium bodied red wines like Merlots, Sangioveses, or Grenaches pair well with roasted vegetable dishes, poultry and cured/ smoked meats too, but also with beef and wild game. Full-bodied red wines, for example Cabernet-Sauvignons, Shiraz, and especially Malbec wines, can even stand up to hearty foods like barbeque and hot-and-spicy dishes. medium-sweet and sweet red wine or dessert wine naturally go well with sweets and puddings, but try them paired with cured or smoked meats too!
Vinello-Tip: The flavours and aromas of cuisine and wines that have developed together within a region almost always work well together. Try, for example, an Argentinian Malbec with a juicy beef steak, or a Chianti with Saltimbocca alla Romana.
Fine red wine and fish?
This question is truly not easy to answer because the texture and flavour of the fish (or how it has been cooked) plays a more important role in your choice of wine than the type of fish itself.
Oven-baked oily fish such as salmon or wels catfish can profit from a light red wine, but a white wine or a rosé wine might be better suited to a poached salmon filet. Swordfish and tuna are even ‘meaty’ enough to serve with a heavier red wine, such as a Beaujolais.
We make it much easier for you when you order red wine from Vinello: Every product description also includes our food pairing recommendations. Once you gain a feel for your own preferences, experiment for yourself - there is so much pleasure to discover with red wines!
Practical tips for the best red wine experience
After you have chosen the red wine that goes best with your food, you naturally want the wine to taste and smell its best. The ideal drinking temperature is important. If a red wine is too cold, then the alcohol taste will be too predominant, and its bouquet will not be able to develop properly. As a general rule, light red wines taste best at between 10 and 16 degrees, while heavier red wines are best enjoyed at a drinking temperature of 16 to 18 degrees Celsius.
The best way to store Red Wine
When you buy red wine online, it is also important to know the right way to store red wine. Our red wine online shop offers you an excellent selection of red wines with maturation potential, but be aware that not all red wines get better with age. Our individual wine descriptions include this information, but we’ve put together a few guidelines for you too:
- Store red wine cool: Between 7 and 16 degrees Celsius is ideal.
- But not too cool: It’s fine to store red wine in the refrigerator for a little while, but the conditions in a conventional refrigerator are dry and can eventually make the cork shrink. The freezer, on the other hand, is never the right place for red wine.
- Consistent temperature: Red wine doesn’t do well when subjected to large temperature fluctuations.
- Put out the light: Sunlight in particular can age a red wine prematurely.
- Lay it down when you lay it up: This keeps the wine in contact with the cork, which keeps it from drying out and shrinking. For bottles with screw caps, that isn’t an issue, but horizontal storage is always space-saving.
- Don’t shake things up: Strong vibrations can speed up chemical reactions in red wine and hinder the precipitation of cream of tartar.
When should red wine be opened, and why does red wine need to breathe?
A young, bold, full-bodied red wine, e.g. an Argentinean Shiraz, can taste a bit rough when the bottle has just been opened – it may even taste better after ‘breathing’ for a full day. A young Pinot Noir generally comes into contact with sufficient oxygen when it is poured into the glass. And be especially careful with very old wines: After opening the bottle, taste the wine. Then you can decide whether you should turn to a wine decanter or not. If such a red wine does have to be decanted in order to filter out sediment, it is better to enjoy the wine sooner rather than later.
How long does red wine last after opening the bottle?
We recommend storing an opened bottle of red wine no longer than three days in the refrigerator. Here are a few other helpful tips:
- Re-cork the bottle properly: Replace the cork with the correct end (the one that was inside the bottle to begin with). It’s a little more fiddly than using the tapered end, but it is more hygienic.
- Use a smaller bottle: Too much air isn’t good for red wine, so it is sensible to pour the wine into a smaller bottle in order to minimise surface area.
- Pretend that you never opened the bottle at all: A Vacu Vin wine saver creates a vacuum and keeps opened wine fresh longer while protecting it from flavour loss due to oxidisation.
Or… just drink up! There are just under five glasses of wine in a standard 750 ml bottle of red wine. If you and your companion each enjoy two glasses with a nice meal, and you companionably share the rest, you’ve likely had a lovely evening. Red wine is also known to be healthy: 1 to 3 glasses of red wine a day can even be beneficial to your health!
Our red wine recommendations
It goes without saying that Vinello only carries red wines that meet our sommeliers’ high standards, but we would like to acquaint you with a few interesting red wines:
- Essentia Loci Primitivo di Manduria from Ognissole is a varietal red wine made from the Primitivo grape. This rarity is truly an aromatic wonder, and its elegant bottle also makes a good impression.
- Kaiken Malbec from the Bodega Kaiken is an exceptionally good red wine within its price range. It pairs well with bold and spicy meats as well as with dark chocolate.
- Gaja Darmagi Cabernet-Sauvignon from Angelo Gaja is an unusual Italian red wine from the Piedmont region. Its bold, dark red colour reflects its equally bold and aromatic bouquet.
- An equitably popular red wine is the Italian Doppio Passo Primitivo, which goes wonderfully with dark meats and barbeque.
Buy red wine online at Vinello
The Vinello online wine shop offers you all the advantages of a conventional store and a few more on top. Vinello has an amazing selection of over 3000 red wine products just waiting for you online – products for you to order conveniently from home, the office or simply en route. Anytime and every day. Discover both first class rare red wines from smaller, yet unknown wineries, as well as red wines from world famous wine greats. They have all been carefully selected by our in-house sommeliers, who are always excited to share their expertise and experience with you personally, either on the telephone or in our sommelier chat.
Buying Red Wine on Invoice
When you buy wine from Vinello, you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space, and we even carry those heavy wine bottles home for you. You can also order one (or more) of our wine subscriptions. You specify amount, type and delivery interval, and you get to try selected red wine specialities while saving time and money. You can choose from various payment methods – and even buy red wine on account. We also offer you various delivery options. Our Bio certified shop also offers you a unique cork guarantee: Should a bottle of red wine ever cork, we will pick it up and replace it – free of charge. And what happens if you accidentally order the wrong red wine? No problem with the Vinello 28-day return policy.
It really is easy to buy affordable red wine online at Vinello. And it’s just plain fun!