Another issue that you’ll be faced with reds is how powerful you like your wines. The truth is that most flavor profiles of red wines also come in a range of styles. It’s difficult to know whether you prefer a flavor profile or a style, but there’s only one way to find out! Fortunately, it involves drinking wine. The following for groups are very broadly expressed styles of wine worth exploring to see if one really rings your bell. If it does, then it’s time to move on and find the regions and producers that manage the oak, extraction and concentration to your liking.
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Spicy reds – but where does the spice come from? To be sure, many red wines are spicy due to the influence of the wood they were aged in but others tend to have a spicy character that comes purely from the grape. By spicy, I mean notes of cracked pepper and earthy spices. The spices that one usually associates with oak tend to be allspice and dried ginger, which certainly have their place in a well-made wine. These spicy reds tend to be rather rich and bold wines, though there are some lovely, if very hard to find, exceptions.
Three Classic Spicy Reds
Australian Shiraz – The black peppery character of Australian Shiraz is well-known and adds a distinctive note to these fairly large-scaled wines.
Mourvedre, aka Monastrell – In particular, the Monatrell from Jumilla in Spain tends to be spicy with a dark black spice character.
Grenache – Grenache can also be spicy in a stemmy sort of way, though much of the spice one gets in Grenache, particularly those coming from Spain, tends to be oak-induced.
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Herbal reds are slowly disappearing from the marketplace because some people have decided that people don’t like herbals reds and would prefer prunes steeped in cocoa and served up on a toasted toothpick. I say, hold on there buddies; you’ve pretty much cooked the character out of Napa Cabernet so leave something for me to love, why dontcha! I’m joking here (not really) and happen to like some decidedly herbal wines because, well, because herbs go well with food. Vanilla and espresso, they should be saved for after the meal!
Three Classic Herbal Reds
Bordeaux – Yes, it’s true. Much Bordeaux in the past was overly herbal, but today with climate change and better vineyard practices, you can find wines that blend herbs and fruit!
Cabernet Franc – While technically one of the classic grapes in a Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Franc delivers much more tomato leaf on its own, particularly when it comes form the Loire.
Carmenere – Another Bordeaux variety, you seeing the family resemblance here? Carmenere needs a ton of sun to mature, but even the best examples tend to retain a nice herbal edge and are wonderfully medium-bodied to boot!
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Okay, so you think you love the fruity wines. Might be, but give yourself some time and you might find that you do want something else in your wine. All those herbs are starting to sounds pretty tasty. Thrown in some spice and what do you know? A complex, complete wine may just require more than a bowl of cherries! The truth is that people really do love fruity red wines, which explains why this list reads like winners at the People’s Choice Awards! Of course in many wine geek worlds, fruity really is code for fruity – and low acid, low in tannins and a little sweet, which pretty much does represent the recipe for easy drinking wine.
Three Classic Fruity Red Wines
Merlot – So you’re not drinking any f*cking Merlot? That’s too bad because you’ll probably like the smooth black cherry fruit here!
Pinot Noir – Ah yes, we all love Pinot. With more red fruit and raspberries and cream, those from California are particularly popular.
Barbera – While blessed with naturally high acids, Barbera is a low tannin grape making it easy to drink with refreshing bright red fruited flavors.
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Earthy reds tend to be earthy not only because of the grape varieties used to make them but also because of the terroir, or climate and soil, of the region where they were made. Most earthy wines tend to be earthy because the fruit in the grapes just didn’t develop to the point where that fruit could cover and conceal all the other traits of the wine. Earthiness can also be minerally and is an attribute that is prized by many wine lovers, both because it gives them the illusion of a connection to the earth the grapes were grown in, but more importantly it adds depth and complexity to the flavor of a wine.
Three Classic Earthy Red Wines
Red Burgundy – Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir from Burgundy) is a classic earthy red wine, though it can be quite expensive. A suitable alternative is Beaujolais.
Sangiovese – The grape that produces Chianti and Brunello has an earthy, leathery character that shows up in those wines.
Nebbiolo – Another Italian variety, Nebbiolo produces wines which are redolent of tar, tobacco and truffles all in an earthy register.
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I’ve made no mention here of rosés or sparkling wines, not to mention fortified and dessert wines; but to a certain extent, those are all sort of wine 301 wines. Many are acquired tastes while some are love at first sip, but they all sort of fit outside of the flowchart we’re going to create for you with this.
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