Good Red Wines for Beginners

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For those new to drinking or tasting wine, red wine may come across as being too bold and harsh for their palette. Tannins that come from the skin of the red wine grapes can make the wines quite dry and have an unpleasant mouth feel for the novice wine drinker. There are, however, a variety of smoother, more drinkable wines that are a sensible red wine introduction for beginners. For the best taste results, serve red wine slightly chilled to bring out its flavors.

You can find a variety of delicious red wines on virtually any budget.
You can find a variety of delicious red wines on virtually any budget. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Light Reds

Pinot noir is one of the most easily drinkable and versatile red wines on account of its light body and low tannin content. Its flavors can range from raspberry to cola. You can drink it alone or pair it with dishes such as earthy mushrooms, creamy cheeses and vegetables like butternut squash and eggplant. It also goes surprising well with salmon and is delicious with milk and white chocolate.

Spanish garnacha, or granache, is created from the grape of the same name, grown in Spain and southern France. It features bright candied cherry flavors, a light body and notes of oranges. It pairs well with Latin fare such as cheese quesadillas, chicken enchiladas and empanadas.

Refreshing and Effervescent

Made from 100 percent gamay grapes, fruity Beaujolais nouveau is released just once a year on the third Thursday of November. It has a very light body, is slightly acidic and is meant to be drunk right away and not aged.

Another fruity wine that is best drunk “young” is lambrusco -- an Italian bubbly red wine that can be dry or on the sweet side. Pair the drier version with pasta dishes with Parmesan cheese and the sweeter wine with desserts.

Beaujolais and lambrusco are best served cool -- around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fuller-Bodied Reds

Red zinfandel, especially from California, has a deep raspberry flavor with a slight chocolate finish. It is a medium-bodied wine that can be paired with a variety of dishes from pizza to filet Mignon.

Shiraz, from Australia, also known as syrah in other regions, is a rich-bodied wine with deep blackberry jam-like flavor. It also has peppery notes and a coffee aroma and finish. It is a sensible choice with Thanksgiving dinner, as its flavors complement turkey.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a big, bold wine that can have a multitude of flavors and nuances, including black cherry and vanilla with a hint of tobacco. Best drunk alone to experience its varied flavors, it can also stand up to heavy fare such as stews and grilled meats.

Choosing a Bottle of Wine

When picking out a wine, consider what you plan to drink it with or if it is to be enjoyed on its own. A good rule in wine pairing is to match the body of the wine with the heaviness of the dish it is to be served with. The lighter the fare, the lighter the body of the wine should be. Heavier dishes like grilled meats or stews need a heavier wine to stand up to their bolder flavors. If you are choosing a wine for a party or to drink on its own, choose a wine that has flavor notes that you enjoy: for instance, strawberries or chocolate. Flavor profiles are listed on the wine label to give you an idea what to expect when drinking a particular wine.

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