By Avi Arora
I think we’ve already established that wine can be scary… especially reds. I have a newfound appreciation, but it didn’t develop until I had a further understanding of red wine. My goal here is to simply explain types of red wines.
The wine develops color after sitting with the skins and stems. This extended contact eventually turns the wine red!
Now that we vaguely know why wine is red, I’m sure you’re sitting here still so confused. Is all red wine the same? No. There are tons of wine variations and then variations of those variations. It’s way more intimidating than it needs to be, but my job here is to teach you the basics in a way you can actually comprehend. I’m not here to show off all the pretentious wine terms that I just learned the meaning of. Wine needs to be approachable, and through Kork, it is.
Red wine takes many forms, and these are names you need to know: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, and Zinfandel.
Also known as a “cab,” Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the boldest and most serious wines one can drink. You need an advanced palate for these, so if you can’t enjoy it now, don’t beat yourself up. They are dry, savory, and high in tannins. Cabs are probably the most planted and well-known grapes. Once you become a more experienced drinker, you will see an increase in popularity and casualty in cabs. This variety of red pairs well with fatty foods to balance out the dryness on your tongue. If you find yourself at a steakhouse, you know what wine to order.
Contrary to popular belief, Merlots can be great. They are on the simpler and sweeter side, but that doesn’t mean that they’re lacking in quality. A bad Merlot can be BAD, but they aren’t all like that. They are smooth and fruity, making them very drinkable. Their velvet textures make them go down easily. In terms of food pairings, Merlots are very versatile. They can pair well with anything from fatty protein, to pasta.
Pinot Noir is similar to a cab in its popularity, but lighter and less tannic. It is more complex than a merlot so overall a very well-respected wine. Its overall flavor is more earthy than other wines allowing it to pair well nearly every protein of choice.
These wines overlap and get confused with each other because they use the same grape. Syrah (often French) is typically a leaner wine than the Australian shiraz. Both of these are easy to drink crowd-pleasers. With strong fruity and tart flavors, syrah and shiraz pair well with heavily spiced Thai or Indian meals.
Zinfandel grapes are native to the United States. With a high alcohol content and fruity spice, zinfandels are very popular. They are fairly complex due to their smoky flavor and full body, but the fruitiness makes them easy to drink. Because zinfandels are an American wine, it makes the most sense that they pair well with traditional American food. Think pizza, pasta, and anything with cheese!
Now that you have a slightly better understanding of what these wines are, I have a job for you. Treat yourself and go buy a bottle of each. Pair them with meals of your choice and let us know which variety of red is you go to!