Back to top

Wine Professor Presents: The Basics of Red Wine


Chances are, you’ve had a few glasses of red wine. But, do you know exactly why that glass of wine is red? The hue of red wine comes from a wide variety of grapes that are anywhere from red to maroon to purple to blue. Particularly, it’s the skin of these grapes that create the unique and profound color of red wine. During the process of wine creation, the juice is in contact with the skin of the grape, which facilitates the color (not to mention tannins) within the wine. Of course, with each individual wine, the color variation is contingent on the type of grape and the amount of time the skin touches the grape juice.

As it goes with most wines, the maker will have the final say in the particular style of wine he or she will produce. That being said, wines are catalogued and classified by their unique body-types. A great example of this is in wine reviews: a critic could perhaps say that on a semi-sweet red wine list, one particular wine is of a light-body, which references the lofty feel on the palate and the absence of heavy tannins. Light-body wines will often feature less tannins and retain its subtleness on the palate. When it comes to pairing food, they do most excellent with dishes bursting in flavor. It’s like an introvert meshing with an extrovert! A great example of a red wine on the light side of the body spectrum is the Pinot Noir (an excellent choice of all semi-sweet wines). This semi-sweet red wine is perhaps the most recognized wine variety, originally produced by Cisterian monks in Burgundy, France.

Red wines of a medium body will certainly feature more tannins than that of the Pinot Noir but will not have the same heavy feel and acidity on the palate as that of your typical bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

This brings us to the bold, the brave, and the full-bodied wine that boasts not only the most tannin levels, but also the most alcohol. The California Cabernet Sauvignon and the luscious French Bordeaux are just two excellent examples of full-bodied wines with complex and robust flavors that stay on the palate for an extended amount of time.

There will be times where you will come across red wines categorized by the region where they were produced, instead of their body or style. For example, the Merlot, Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc are the grapes used to produce the French “Bordeaux.” The Sangiovese grape produces the Italian Chanti, as well as the Argentina Malbec, which is just no taking the wine world by storm. Keep this in mind during your wine experimentations and adventures!


The Basics of Red Wine was written by Cheynne C. Stay tuned to learn more about wine from the Wine Professor.