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Red Wine buying guide

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Introduction

 

Depending on the variety, red wine provides a rich accompaniment to a hearty meal such as Italian food, a casual sipping wine with fruits and cheeses, or even a dessert wine. There are hundreds of vineyards, varietals, and vintages to choose from, which can make the shopping experience seem daunting. Price Inspector can help, giving you the research about the different choices, and then helping you find cheap prices you want. We shop the UK stores to bring you the best prices available.

Red wine is an alcoholic beverage produced from fermented juice from red grapes combined with yeast. Depending on the variety being produced, different grapes and types of yeast may be used, and some red wines use a combination of more than one grape variety.

Wine dates back to about 6000 BC, and historians think it originated in the area around Georgia and Iran. Wine probably first appeared in Europe around 4500 BC in Greece. Wine has played an important part in different religions throughout history, from the Roman god Bacchus who represented wine to Jewish and Christian ceremonies such as Kiddush and Holy Communion.

 

Understanding wine labelling

Wines can either be made of a single grape variety, which is known as a varietal wine, or they can be made from several varieties combined, known as blended wine. There are also many different styles of wine, and Price Inspector will help you sort through the different types.

Regulations govern the classification and sale of wine in many regions of the world. European wines tend to be classified by region, such as Bordeaux or Chianti. With non-European wines, they are more typically classified by the type of grape, such as Pinot Noir or Merlot. There are also blended wines that use their name as a marketing term, such as Meritage, which is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It may also contain Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

For a wine to be considered a "vintage wine," it must be made from grapes primarily grown in a certain year, and it will be labeled accordingly. Vintage wines may contain a small portion of grapes that are not from the specified vintage year. From year to year, depending on growing conditions, a wine’s character could have slight differences in colour, nose, body, palate, and development. If properly stored, high quality red wines can improve in flavour with age. Therefore, it is common for wine enthusiasts to save bottles from an especially good year for future consumption. With non-vintage wines, wine makers blend grapes from more than one year to promote a consistent flavour. This also lets wine makes maintain a reliable image during bad years.

France uses different labeling systems based on quality, such as Vin de Table or “table wine” to Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée or AOC at the upper end. Other countries including Portugal, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Greece use a similar system to regulate wine trade.

Things to consider before buying

  • First, decide whether you want a light, fruity red wine or a drier, more intense wine. Lighter wines include Beaujolais-nouveau, Chianti, and paisano. In the middle, ranging from dry to semi-dry, are the full-bodied red wines, which includes burgundy, merlot, and pinot noir, as well as blends such as cabernet-merlot. The most intense red wines include zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and Shiraz.
  • Look for vintages that are at least three years old. Most red wines will improve with age, beginning to reach full maturity around three years. Beaujolais-nouveau and fruity red wines are the major exceptions, as they are designed to be consumed right away.
  • When you find a favourite variety, explore older and younger vintages for comparison. If you find a vintage year that you especially enjoy, consider stocking up while it is still available. Of course you will need to properly store the wine before consumption, preferably on its side in a cool, dark location.
  •  Consider trying versions of your favourite varietals from other countries. There can be either subtle or striking differences between the same grape varietal from another region, such as Chile, Australia, South Africa, Spain, or Argentina.
  • Food pairings are a suggestion, not a rule. Although there are certain traditions surrounding “proper” food pairings, it comes down to your personal preference. If Pinot Noir is your favourite, there’s no reason you can’t pair it with a heavy red meat, even though it is suggested for lighter pairings like salmon.

Types of red wine

There are a eight majour varietals of red wines, plus a number of blended wines, and Price Inspector can help you learn the basic differences between them.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best varieties in the world, often blended with merlot and cabernet franc. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with red meats. It is a full bodied, firm red wine with ruch currant flavours.
  • Malbec pairs well with all meats. Its flavours vary widely depending on where it is grown. It is an easy-drinking red wine, with tones of berries, plums, and spice. Malbec is frequently blended with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot.
  • Merlot is a soft red wine that is easy to drink, often referred to as an introductory wine for newer red wine drinkers. It can be paired with virtually any food, with flavours of blackcherry, herbs, and plums. It is less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Pinot noir is rarely blended. It pairs well with salmon, lamb, and chicken. It offers a delicate, fresh taste, with soft tannins and fruity aromas.
  • Syrah, or Shiraz, offers flavours and aromas of wild blackfruit, with overtones of black pepper and roasting meat. Syrah is a hearty, spicy red wine. It offers intense flavours and outstanding longevity. Syrah pairs well with meats, such as beef, game, and stews.
  • Zinfandel is a versatile grape, used for blush wines like White Zinfandel to heavy, rich red wines. Red Zinfandel pairs well with red pasta sauces, pizza, and barbeque. It is only grown in California, and offers a zesty flavour of berries and pepper.
  • Blended wines combine one or more of the above major varietals with more minor varietals. The resulting flavours depend on the percentages used of each grape.

 Wine Brands

There are hundreds of brands of wine, but Price Inspector has provided overviews for a few of the more popular ones.

  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label has produced some of Australia’s finest wines for more than 30 years. The Wolf Blass style is unique and highly distinguishable, delivering vibrant fruit flavours, with a soft palate and integrated tannins across the whole range of wines. Their luxury wines are Platinum Label, Black Label, and Grey Label, while their everyday wines are Yellow Label and Red Label. 
  •  Jacobs Creek is Australia’s largest wine brand, with 2 million glasses consumed worldwide every day. They produce world class wines, with a focus on traditional and sparkling wines. Their range consists of several different tiers, each built on their tradition of quality. The tiers include Reserve, Heritage, Sparkling, and Classic.
  • Kumala Wine is produced in South Africa, with brands including Western Cape, Cape Classics, Zenith, and Eternal. Their grapes are sourced from all over South Africa, helping ensure they always have the best grapes available. They are known for producing quality wines with full, rich character.
  • First Cape Wine hails from South Africa, and it has grown to be the best-selling South African wine in the UK. Their selections include FirstCape, Limited Release, First Selection, Café Collection, Sparkling, and Millstone.
  • Australia’s Lindemans Bin 50 Shiraz is considered a Best Buy by Wine Spectator magazine. It offers a dark berry aroma with a spicy edge, and it is an affordably priced wine.
  • Sartori Valpolicella is produced in Italy. Their amarone wine features a rich, garnet red colour, with a bouquet of plums and spices. It is a dry, deep flavour with luscious berry flavours. 
  •  Fetzer Wine is a popular wine from California, and the company focuses on sustainable, environmentally friendly production. For more than 40 years, Fetzer has been one of the more popular wines in the United States, with their red wines include Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

Jargon Explained

 

VarietalWine that uses a single type of grape, rather than blending two or more.
VintageWine made from grapes grown in a single year.
A.O.C. Appellation of Controlled Origin. A French law that specifies the geographic area where a cerain wine may be produced and hwo it can be made.
BreathingWhen air and wine interact after the wine is opened.
Decanting:Pouring wine from the bottle into a decanter, which separates any sediment from the wine.
TanninsChemicals found in grape skins and seeds. They are harsh and bitter, and if they are present in large quantities, it makes wine difficult to drink, leaving a dry and puckery feel in your mouth.

Buying Guide to Red Wine
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