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Need help going Red - Wine Discussion

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Previous Entry Need help going Red Oct. 15th, 2011 @ 11:27 am Next Entry
I have always been a white wine drinker.  I lean mostly to the Riesling side of life.  But, I really want to venture into Red territory.

My experiences with Red in the past haven't been great.  Too dry and the tannins leave me with a head ache.  I have been told that the RWH is all in my head (*sighs*) and that Red is no more likely to cause headaches than White.

So why do I want to go Red?  Blame it on peer pressure.  Or actually on wine tasting pressure.

I love wine tastings.  But every time, I ask for whites only - I get this "look" - yeah, you know the one - it says "grow up and get with the program".

Not exactly in those words, but you get my meaning.  Who says the world of wine is without snobbery? 

I have been told that Red is an acquired taste and one must grow into it.  Well, I am willing to give it a try.

Anyone have any suggestions on some Red to cut my baby teeth on?  Be gentle - nothing too dry and too hearty to start. 

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[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 15th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
I am so with you on this! I tend to like the girly fruity wines and reds always end up tasting too dry for me.

And the headache...oy!
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[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 15th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
As you live in the USA and I live in France, I have no idea what's available to you :-(

I too am a white-wine-drinker-trying-to-get-into-reds and I've generally found that, with french reds, cheap stuff is nasty. Good Bordeaux and some of the spanish reds are lovely but it's so variable, even within one region, that it's impossible to tell :-(

All I can suggest is that you explain to your "friendly neighbourhood wine merchant" and ask for suggestions. If he/she is a real professional, they'll be able to help. Happy tastings!
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 15th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
I'd start with smoother grapes... like pinot noir, lighter sangiovese, or some of the australian shiraz/cab blends that are made for easy drinkin'.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 15th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
Have you thought about trying some dry rose and kind of working your way up to red? Also at wine tastings would be the perfect time to try reds-you can tell them that you prefer white, but are looking to branch out and see what they offer you.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 15th, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
When I want to serve a red wine to white wine drinkers, I like a beaujolais (they are actually good slightly chilled, like whites), or a claret.

A beaujolais is pretty inexpensive, too, so if you don't care for it you're only out about $10. The only common claret I know is sophia coppola, around $15-20 range.

[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 15th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah- the beaujolais and rose ideas are great for starters. After that, you might try some cabernet or shiraz. It might help if you run the gamut in one evening - start with a white, move to the beaujolais or rose and then to a cab or shiraz.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 15th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
I'll throw the idea of a merlot out there. I'm a fan of California reds, and while I usually prefer a nice cabernet, sometimes I go with merlot. Merlot has a nice fruity taste and isn't really very dry. Good luck!
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 15th, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
I would definitely start with Beaujolais. Now that I've been drinking reds for four years (and prefer them to whites), I think Beaujolais is too much like strong grape juice. But I LOVED it when I first started trying reds.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 16th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
There's a sweet shiraz made in South Africa called Jam Jar that's pretty widely sold in supermarkets in the U.S. nowadays. It's also at World Market.

Beaujolais is good. I'm a fan of Cru Beaujolais, since even though they're very high quality, they're still not terribly expensive.

Pinot noir is always a good way to go. Cambria's Julia's Vineyard pinot noir is an approachable, beautiful one.

My favorite red is Loire Valley cabernet franc - Bourgeil, Chinon, etc. It's soft and not too tannic - round, red, velvety, just a touch earthy and generally amazing.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 16th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
Ditto the Beaujolais and pinot noir suggestions. Would also recommend Grenache/Garnacha. Shiraz is more full-bodied, but is a very friendly, fruit-forward wine.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 16th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
Totally agree with Pinot Noir - that was my gateway red (specifically a Schug Pinot) - softer tanins let me start to enjoy reds like a peppery zin didn't...now I'm a enjoyer of most reds! Good luck!
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 16th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC)
I think you have some good suggestions. Red blends are especially easy to approach.

I didn't like red wine until I started pairing it with food, and that changed my mind completely. Try some merlot with a piece of dark chocolate or a nice glass of cab with a steak and see what a difference it can make.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 16th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
I disagree with suggestions for cab or merlot -- those are not "gateway" reds; they are the ones that perfectly embody the tannins that make people shun reds (especially cabernet).

This is especially true at the lower end. Most cheap cabs are pretty awful, and cheap merlots aren't far behind (I much prefer cab, but when I am looking at cheap wines, I actually go for the merlot over the cab) Cheap shiraz can be pretty awful, as well.

Some of the recommendations here are good. Try beuajolais nouveaux -- it's fruity and a little sweet, can be somewhat tart like citrus.

If you want light-bodied red, go with pinot noir, this tends to have some sour notes (like sour cherry) combined with some smokiness of retaining the oak barreling.

I've had some very light/smooth syrah as well, and it was inexpensive, but it was French, not American or Australian (which seem to be much darker/richer) -- it tasted more like pinot than syrah.

If you want to venture into "full-bodied" territory but prefer fruitiness over tannins and herbal notes, there are some good inexpensive zinfandels. They are very big and rich, no doubt, but don't have the tannic bite that cabs have. They are a little bit like syrah/shiraz that way, but I usually prefer zin (zin does have a bit of spice/pepper profile sometimes, but often has mostly a jammy raspberry profile)

Ceja Vineyards here in Napa makes a very approachable table blend which is mostly pinot and syrah, you might enjoy giving something like that a try.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 16th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, and sangiovese or rioja might be other options for you to consider. If you like sweet, I also had a German wine labeled "Sweet Red" which I found at Trader Joe's (I think it was made from dornfelder grapes)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 17th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, I just remembered what that reasonably-priced French syrah was... I don't remember the exact house/maker/brand, but it was a Crozes-Hermitage, very light and delicate, definitely not bad (some people like dark, full-bodied syrah, and I like that, too. I basically just like whatever is good. My stance with wine isn't limited by region or varietal or pricetag -- If it's good, it's good. If it's bad, it's usually awful.)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 18th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
wow, yeah...I am wondering why people are recommending cabs.
I second a recommendation for zinfandel, particularly from Sonoma. Cheaper zins are always better than cheaper cabs/merlots/syrahs
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 17th, 2011 04:42 am (UTC)
I'll echo the Beaujolais recommendations - and add one for zinfandel "Field blends". These are zin-heavy red blends, I grew up on 'em and always find them tasty, easy drinking, and reasonably priced. An easy one to find is REDS by Tierra Divina vineyards (Patrick Campbell, the winemaker, recently sold his Laurel Glen winery, the Laurel Glen name went with the sale - but the name REDS and Za Zin - his other zin - remain his)

I'd also suggest that you drink what you like. Red, white, pink, it's all good. If anyone sneers ar your choice of wine, perhaps you need new drinking companions.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 17th, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)
I host the wine tasting at the Texas Renaissance Festival and each show we have someone new to wine and especially red wines.

My personal recommendations for someone just venturing into reds are:

Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz from South Africa (I think someone up above also mentioned it):

Apothic Red which is a semi sweet blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot from California. It's just sweet enough for a red wine novice but with dark spice notes that counter the sweetness beautifully. I personally love it. http://www.apothic.com/index.html

There is a French table wine I adore and often buy when I just want something inexpensive and good to keep around the house to dip into at any time (and I love to cook with it as well). L'Epayrie is a French red blend from Bordeaux that is also quite light and not overpowering like some heavier red varietals such as Cabernet or Malbec (although I highly recommend both of those once you get your taste for reds honed). It's fruity enough to give it enough sweetness for a red wine beginner. I pay less than ten dollars for a litre.

Last, but not least, if you are looking to start with particular variety, I recommend Pinot Noir. It's light enough (which you can see by holding it up to the light) to not be overpowering, the tannins are not nearly as prevalent as they are in Cab, Merlot or Malbec, it's very fruity, but not too sweet. I always recommend it to anyone who is just starting out on reds.

Good luck. I hope you find something you like.

[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 17th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
I tried the Apothic Red over this past summer (bought by some friends of mine who like wine but tend not to like the heavy duty stuff) -- not bad. It actually seemed a bit tannic when we opened it (maybe from the merlot?) so I'm not sure I'd recommend that as a first-time foray into reds... however, when we left it out overnight and had the other half the next day, the mouthfeel was much smoother and the flavors a bit mellowed (it was better after aerating a bit)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 17th, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
Another white-wine lover here, who started to transition about a year ago to the red. Pinot Noir is by far my favourite at this point, and so I'm chiming in with everyone else in that regard.

I've also taken to Bordeaux-style blends of the two Cabs with Merlot (none of which I can drink as single varietals), but I don't drink such without an accompanying meal.

When it comes to tastings of the more tannic wines, I always try to imagine what the wine would taste like if I was eating steak while drinking it.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 18th, 2011 10:23 am (UTC)
I'm not exactly sure why people keep mentioning cab and shiraz.
Cabernet is really pesky to try to find that's like-able, and I like reds! I'm not the real fan of too many tannins, but I like it dry. I'm just now finding cabs that I like.

Shiraz has a bite to it, although when it is blended it can be very drink-able. I think it may be early times to think about it if you are just getting started on reds.

Merlot may be slightly less challenging. Cupcake makes some really nice affordable reds and a pink. (the pink is a little dry, but bubbly and pleasant)

Bordeaux is very easy on the palate.

If you drink Italian wines, they tend to go better with food. This is something to discuss with your pusher purveyer.

I started to write about nitrites, but found an article which stated there are more added to white wine. I know that you can get wine with no added, but it naturally occurs in wine/grapes, and the wines with no additional would either spoil faster, or would have something else added. It said that the cause for red wine headache is not known.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:March 9th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
I would try Pinot Evil, which tastes like velvet. What is wrong with drinking whites? I drank whites for a year before my pallette changed, then I could no longer drink any sweet wine whatsoever. I agree with those who state that Cab is not a good gateway wine to reds. I would either stick with Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Maybe Chianti IF you decant it for a few hours. Then, it loses some of the "harshness"
[User Picture Icon]
Date:December 5th, 2012 03:36 am (UTC)
So did you ever end up liking reds? I also started preferring whites
over reds. And I really liked port. After awhile, at wine tastings, I
would try the reds too. Just to see the wide variety available. I
found that I tended to like the ones with descriptions like
light-bodied, fruit-forward, soft tannins, jammy,
simple/straightforward, and approachable. As has already been
mentioned Beaujolais and Pinot Noir were readily enjoyed. I also liked
some of the quite affordable blends I found at Trader Joes (had pretty
good luck sampling bottles in the $4-8 range). For the more tannic
wines, I found having food really helped a lot. Some wine tastings
will have some meat and cheese available and sipping the wines with a
bit of animal fat in my mouth really helped me see why people liked
those wines. Now I'll happily drink just about anything.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:December 6th, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
I am still acclimating to most of the reds! There are some that I really like, but others are just too dry and oaky. The blends are the best (and Trader Joe's for the win), if I am sitting around sipping a glass for enjoyment I stick with whites, but I try to venture into red territory whenever I am having a full blown meal.

I do love my wine, so I really want to be able to enjoy a full range!
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