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Fifty shades of red wine

Posted: Mar 17 2015

Today, we uncork the secrets of 50 shades – 50 shades of red wine actually. Yes, there will be gasping and moaning, but strictly for wines and not Mr Grey or Annabel (and no, the author has not watched the movie). All things in 50 shades are the rage these days and at Bacchus, we strive to keep our readers updated with the latest trends. Today, we write about the different shades of red wine – scarlet, burgundy, crimson, chestnut, rose, vermillion, brick red, dark red, purplish red etc. These different shades of red wine are made from different grape varietals and we will introduce some of the most common grape varietals of red wine.

A Burgundy Pinot Noir that is a great accompaniment to any meal.

What causes the color intensity of red wine

Red wine derives its color from the skin of grapes as grape juice is naturally clear-grayish in color (as with the flesh of grapes). In a process called maceration, the grapes are left with its skin on during fermentation, and this is what causes the color of red wine to be, well, red. If you think along this process, you would probably guess that it is actually also possible, though not common, to produce white wines using red grapes.

Lighter shade of reds – the light rubies

  • Pinot Noir – Typically a light–medium bodied wine, Pinot Noir is one of the most well-known grape varietals in the world. Burgundy is the region in France that is the most famous for producing the finest Pinot Noirs in the world. It has been described as a romantic, sexy wine, so perhaps the next time you’re in the mood for 50 shades of red (or grey), try having this sexy wine around for accompaniment.
  • Lambrusco – This wine with its light red color makes you think of puppy love - that or Ribena. While not as common as the other great Italian wine types, this typically light-bodied red grape varietal can be the perfect wine for a light meal in the afternoon. However, not all Lambrusco are made in the girlish shade of pink. Some wine growing regions in Italy do produce a much darker and more alluring red Lambrusco.
  • Nebbiolo – Next on the list is another Italian wine from Piedmont. The well-known regions for Nebbiolo grapes are Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo when young would be a lighter shade of ruby, but as you allow it to age, can turn darker and more complex. Try a Barolo from Pio Cesare or Fratelli Alessandria the next time you need to bring a bottle to dinner to spice up the night.

Darker shades of reds – the mysterious ones

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – A classic full-bodied wine, Cabernet Sauvignon is a well-known grape varietal and commonly found in any wine store and produced in several countries from France to Italy, Australia to USA. The most wine-known Bordeaux wineries (Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite, Mouton Rothschild) fetching sky rocket prices in auctions are red Bordeaux blends which are made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, along with other varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Unfortunately, because it is so well-known, it is produced by many wineries and this leads to a diverse selection of wines under the Cabernet Sauvignon label. This also makes finding a good red Cabernet Sauvignon challenging. Along with the deep red color of a Cabernet Sauvignon, a top Bordeaux red wine will release a burst of complex flavors and you will feel the beautiful aromas and taste of black cherries and berries. For a great experience with this grape varietal, you may want to try a good red Bordeaux.
  • Shiraz – At purplish-red in color and even darker than a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz can sometimes come across as being too tannic. If you are looking for an intense wine, you might want to try this grape varietal. However, because of its high levels of tannins and acidity, it may not suit everyone.
  • Malbec – Malbec, a seductive purplish-red wine is a great alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon and is rising in popularity amongst wine drinkers. Argentina is increasingly being known and famous for their Malbecs. Malbec is a purple-grape variety and can be one of the most enjoyable full-bodied wines available. We recommend Argentina producers such as Achaval Ferrer and Catena Zapata for some truly great Malbecs at an affordable price.

Of course, the above color classification is just a quick and dirty reference based on the typical colors exhibited by each grape varietal. There will be exceptions based on how the producer works his craft, and wine color may also change over time. However, having a brief understanding on the common colors exhibited by these grapes can aid you in determining the type of wine you are drinking should you be faced with a blind tasting. It may even help you determine the age of the wine if you know which grapes you are drinking. With that, we will leave you to venture further and wish you a pleasurable journey finding the right shade of red.

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