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Red Wine Introduction

by Staff Writer - C. Barnett | May 20, 2012

All wine grapes have specific characteristics that they bring with them into wine such as body, flavor and texture; and with red wines, color and tannins. Even with using different winemaking processes, the grapes true character and flavor will come through. After picking, red grapes are put into tanks or barrels where they soak with their skins, seeds and stems, absorbing pigments and other aspects of the grape skin, such as tannins. Tannin (naturally occurring compounds found in the skin of grapes) are the main difference between red and white wines. Tannin contributes to the color and flavor of red wines. That woody taste in wine is tannin. As a general rule, red wines are heavier and more complex than white wines.

When making red wine, it is the grape’s skins, seeds, and stems that are responsible for the red wine’s distinct color range. The individual wine’s particular red shade depends on the grape type used in the process and the length of time the skin’s, seeds and stems pigmentation is in contact with juice. The skins, seeds and stems are in contact with the grape’s juice during the fermentation (the process that turns grapes or grape juice into wine) process, allowing the distribution of both color and tannins.

Common Red Wine Flavor Descriptions

Blackberry, Cherry, Cinnamon, Clove, Coffee, Cocoa, Currant, Fig, Gooseberry, Leather, Licorice, Pepper, Plum, Raspberry, Smoke, Strawberry and Tobacco


Red Wine is often characterized by its body-type, such as light-bodied, medium bodied or full-bodied. A light-bodied wine will have less tannin present and will be less strong on the palate. A medium-bodied red wine will contain more tannin, but will not have the strength of a high-powered California Cabernet Sauvignon. Full-bodied red wines claim the highest tannin (and often alcohol) content. In general, light-bodied wines tend to have a texture more like water in the mouth. In contrast, full-bodied wines have a heavier texture like milk. This effect is due in large part to the higher tannin and alcohol content.


If only one variety (such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) is noted on the wine label, then the wine is called a varietal (varietal means that a wine is produced from one variety of grape and carries the name of that grape). European and old-world countries tend to label their wine by region, while new world wine is most often labeled with grape variety. Some of the main red wine varietals that you are likely to encounter are: Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, and Zinfandel.

Health Benefits

Red wine contains an ample source of powerful antioxidants, which may help prevent heart disease by raising good cholesterol levels and protecting the arteries from damage. The chemical composition of red wine may contribute to its benefit. A series of scientific studies have suggested that the compounds in red wine, such as flavonoids and resveratrol, may play an active role in good health benefits. Drinking Red Wine with a meal may not only enhance the flavor of the meal, but it may play a role in your good health.

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