Ever found yourself dumbfounded having to guess from a Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based solely on the color of the wine? Fret not, as we have all encountered this situation!
Before we go in-depth on the varying hues of red wines (there are approx. 32 varieties!), one first has to appreciate how the color is developed. Red grape varieties contain molecules, anthocyanins, whose color varies from red to purple. This color is no stranger to us, as it is also found in beetroots, red cabbage & eggplants! How the colour magic happens is that grape skins are in contact with the grape juice during the fermentation process, allowing the dispersion of both colour and tannins.
What is tannin you might ask? As we’d like to call it, this “siap” feeling is the dry sensation you feel after sipping a glass of red wine. The reason why this occurs more in reds than whites is because the juice has to sit with the grape skin for a longer period of time in order to achieve that red goodness, causing more tannins to be infused into the wine. So when one says a certain red wine is “light bodied”, it typically is less “siap” and has less presence on the palate.
KNOW YOUR LIGHT-BODIED REDS
“Light-bodied” reds are also produced in cooler climates, which tend to have higher acidity. This should taste tarty and zesty like your citrus fruits! In cooler climates, the grapes are unable to fully ripen as compared to those in warmer climates. This prevents the grapes from losing their acidity & reaching its full juiciness.
Apart from its citrusy flavour, lets not forget a crucial component – the alcohol content! This is an important factor (I’m not being biased) in determining the viscosity of the wine body. So the lesser the alcohol percentage, the lighter the wine body is. What makes a red wine “light-bodied” is that they are less than 12.5%.
KNOW YOUR FULL-BODIED REDS
Moving to the opposite end of the spectrum is your “full-bodied” reds that boast the highest tannins and alcohol content of more than 13.5%. Some of them are usually described as dry or sweet, but also contain a deeper complexity to the wine.
To keep things simple, full-bodied wines usually go through further processing after they are being fermented to create the added mouth feel. The reds are left in oaks which helps to add tannin and aroma into the wine. The flavor and alcohol content of the wine changes the longer it sits in the oak. Fun fact, newer oak barrels tend to give wines a caramelized/toasty/vanilla flavor as the barrel is torched with fire. Oh don’t you worry honey, the wine isn’t IN the barrel when this happens! Our winemakers know their priorities as much as we do!
Now that we have introduced some of these fruity red goodness, we hope that the next time you spot a Shiraz and a Pinot Noir, you would know what to expect from drinking it!
IN A NUTSHELL – WINE DICTIONARY:
Acidity (“Wah, this wine so sour like lemon juice!”) – The crisp & tarty sensation on your palette than is contrary to sweetness, leaving your tongue feeling wet
Tannin (“This wine tastes very siap”) – Remember that bitter taste & dryness in your mouth when you had your last sip of oolong tea? Yup.
Wine Body (“This wine has a nice mouth feel / 口感”) – How the wine feels inside our mouth