- August 28 is National Red Wine Day, and the perfect excuse to uncork your juiciest red or go shopping for a new bottle.
- Red wine can be complex, but it doesn’t need to be overly expensive – there are great bottles at all price points, says Keith Beavers, the wine tasting director for VinePair.
- For dinner pairings, Beavers recommends a Malbec served with Argentinian-style chimichurri steak, or a Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet blend with a hearty mushroom risotto.
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With August 28 kicking off National Red Wine Day, there’s never been a better time to pop your favourite bottle (or two) and enjoy. But when it comes to “red wine,” the world is very broad and can get incredibly complex.
Wine is so much more intricate than simply whittling it down to “red, white, or rose.” There are dozens of different wines, and the term “red” is only the tip of a very large iceberg, which can make selecting one to drink a little intimidating – especially when experts are throwing around fancy lingo.
But it turns out that red wine doesn’t have to be that complicated. It really is all about trying everything and learning what you like.
“When I was coming up in wine, I just bought all kinds of bottles I could afford from everywhere,” Keith Beavers, the tasting director for VinePair, told Business Insider. “I wanted to experience all the wines. In doing so I found what I liked and what I didn’t like. I also learned along the way.”
Case in point, Beavers said, price (gasp!) shouldn’t matter. There are great wines in all price categories.
When it comes to knowing what kind of taste you’re looking for, he said a good rule of thumb is that the higher the alcohol by volume (ABV), the more full-bodied the wine will feel. The lower the ABV, the lighter the wine will feel on the palate.
Of course, this is just the bare minimum when it comes to the basics of red wine.
So to make it really simple, we let the experts do the legwork and come up with a list of 14 delectable red wines to uncork, and what specifically to serve them with.
1. Poderi Oddero Barbera d’Alba Superiore
Barbera d’Alba is a region of Piedmont in northwestern Italy, which is famous for its tangy reds made from Barbera grapes.This wine is a deep ruby red colour, with a nose of cherry, blackberry, small red fruits, pepper, and minerals. It has been aged in French oak casks for at least 16 months.
“This wine is great with a slight chill,” said Beavers. He recommends leaving it for 20 minutes in the fridge. And, for a meal to pair, “I love cooking up a simple pasta dish with a quick red sauce that has just thickened.”
2. Elvio Cogno Bricco dei Merli Barbera d’Alba
True to Barbera d’Alba form, this wine is also bright ruby red in colour, with intense perfumes of wild berries and spices. Flavours are reminiscent of Morello cherries, plums, and a finish of raisins.
“This Barbera has a little more depth to it. It still lifts on the palate but the comfy weight calls for stuffed pasta like ravioli or agnolotti,” said Beavers.
3. Familia Zuccardi ‘Aluvional’ Altamira
Zuccardi Aluvional Paraje Altamira is one of the best rated wines out there. That’s because it starts with superb alluvial soil in the Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. This is a superb Malbec, with deep red and violet colouring, and notes of strawberry, cherry, and plum. The palate is silky – it feels light because of the acidity.
“This wine is expensive, but the Zuccardi family is doing such important work in Argentina to show the potential for complexity with Malbec,” said Beavers. “This wine blows my mind and it’s hard to share. This wine almost requires an Argentine-style steak with chimichurri slathered on top.”
4. Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend
Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend is a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc grapes. The nose is typical of a Malbec, with aromas of red and black fruits, and a little spice with chocolate and vanilla. The taste is velvety and smooth, with coffee notes and dark fruits. The best part is that for such an intriguing wine, it’s at a really low price point – around $US13 a bottle.
“Real talk, this is one of the best quality-to-price red blends on the shelves,” said Beavers. “It is so balanced and smooth. The Cab Franc spices up the calm fruit of the Malbec. I would buy a case at a time and pull it out for any occasion.”
5. Denner Vineyards The Dirt Worshipper
This is a higher priced red out of Paso Robles, California, but it is absolutely worth it. The nose is fragrant with blackberries, olive tapenade, white pepper, and a bit of a campfire smoke, while the palate is savoury to the bone, with blackberry, sassafras, and black anise.
“This wine is hands down one of my favourite wines I have tasted this year,” said Beavers. “It is such a great example of how diverse American wine is. Napa and Sonoma make great wine, but there is so much more out there and Paso Robles is killing it. This wine is herby and has impeccable balance.”
This wine would be served well slightly chilled and paired with a rack of lamb.
6. Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas
The 2017 Patelin de Tablas blends four Rhone Valley varietals, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Counoise. It has received impeccable ratings across the board and its flavours are based on dark fruit, mineral, and spice. The Grenache also adds acidity.
“Give me a sunny afternoon with some burgers, fries, and a potato salad, and a few bottles of this wine with a slight chill from the cooler, and I’ll call it a day,” said Beavers.
7. D-66 Grenache by Dave Phinney
Using a blend of 80-100 year old vines, D66 by Dave Phinney hails from vineyards in the Roussillon region of France. This wine is full of passion – deeply dark and dense with a profile of plum, candied violet, and cassis. A sip is an explosion of exotic flavours, from cardamom and sarsaparilla to molasses and dried quince. It’s velvety, sexy, and full of flavour.
“I’ve been excited about Grenache for a few years,” said Corey Beck, CEO and winemaking chief at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. “We’ve been using it in our Sofia Rose, as well as some of our red blends. D-66 is an Old vine Grenache that comes from a small town in France. The vines don’t yield much fruit, thus making each vintage super concentrated and creating a wine that is age-worthy, but also ready to drink now.”
Beck says go big or go home and pair this decidedly French wine with hearty coq au vin.
8. Archimedes Cabernet Sauvignon
The 2016 Archimedes Cabernet Sauvignon is the product of a cold, wet winter that ended in a long, dry summer. The result is a dramatic and expressive bottle full of vibrant aromas, like plum and blackberry jam. The palate is filled with red and black fruits and the finish has a hint of spicy cocoa.
“I’m excited about our Red Blend Archimedes,” said Beck. “It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon base with Malbec and Petit Verdot, coming from our Estate Vineyard on Pine Mountain in Sonoma County. The North/West sun exposure is ideal for ripening and produces some of the best Cabernet in all of Sonoma County.”
9. Diamond Collection Gold Tier Claret
The 2017 Diamond Collection Gold Tier Claret has robust scents of plum, blackberry, and tobacco, while the flavours ring of cherry, cocoa and cassis. It uses Bordeaux varietal regions in California, with the base being a Cabernet Sauvignon. But the beauty comes from the blend with Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc.
“A classic bottle that I continue to revisit is our Diamond Collection Claret,” said Beck. “The charm comes from the art of blending, which provides consistency and authenticity to the wine.”
With colder weather not too far around the corner, this is a sensual, expressive wine to pair with a decadent rack of lamb or a hearty mushroom risotto. Beck recommended also pairing it with pesto (his grandmother’s 100-year-old recipe, to be exact), on top of BBQ pork chops.
10. DAOU Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
This elegant and silky red packs a powerful punch, and its complexity and layers are what make it so appealing and intriguing. On the nose you’ll find currant, black cherry, cedar, and eucalyptus, while the finish leaves lingering notes of sweet cherry and boysenberry.
“Daniel and his team are committed to quality and have chosen the best sites to grow world class Cabernet Sauvignon in a great region, Paso Robles,” said Beck. “The commitment to 100 point wines is the only goal for Daniel and team and it partners beautifully with a bison ribeye from Cherry Creek Grill in Paso Robles.”