The Flavors, Textures and Experiences of Red Wines

By Georgene Mortimer, Island Winery

If you’ve ever wanted to explore red wine, but didn’t know where to begin, here are some tips that can help.

Since there are thousands of different red wines, it can be daunting to try finding your preferences. However, the process can be simplified by understanding that most wine flavors depend on four basic attributes: acid, body, tannin and alcohol.

It’s also important to note the difference between Old World and New World wine styles. In general, Old World-style refers to wine produced in European countries where there are tighter restrictions on how the wines must be made. These wines tend to be lower in alcohol, lighter in body and feature more restrained fruit flavors. New World-style wine comes from countries that used to be European colonies, typically with warmer climates. They tend to be fuller in body, higher in alcohol and have bolder expressions of fruit.

By heading to your local wine shop and trying the following wines, hopefully you can get a better understanding of acid, tannin, body and alcohol, and find a red wine that you like:

Pinot Noir, preferably Old World-style, is the wine to help you isolate and understand acidity, since it is low in tannin and body. Usually light in color, Pinot Noir has an aroma reminiscent of tart red fruits, such as cherries and cranberries. An Old World-style variety will have muted fruit flavors that allow the bright acidity to shine through. If you enjoy this light fruity wine, you may also like Lambrusco, Gamay and Grenache.

Malbec is a great choice to help you understand body, because it’s a full-bodied wine with medium levels of tannin and acidity. Body describes the texture of a wine, and a full-bodied wine’s texture will coat your mouth and linger. A New World-style Malbec from Argentina, Chile or Australia really showcases the benefits of body, as you will surely note the bold berry and plum flavors as they linger on your tongue. If you like Malbec, you might try Syrah and French Rhone Blends.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular high-tannin wine. Tannin is the quality that makes a wine taste dry and allows it to be age-worthy. It’s also one reason why some don’t enjoy red wine. When tannin levels are too high, the drying sensation can be overwhelming. However, over time, tannins soften and add a pleasant, complex dimension to a wine. Old World wines typically need more aging time for tannins to balance out. Carmenere and Tempranillo are other great examples of world-class, high-tannin wines.

Zinfandel is typically a high-alcohol wine. Alcohol levels in wine range from 11% to 15%, with wines over 13.5% considered to be high alcohol. Almost all high-alcohol wines are from the New World, where hot temperatures allow the sugar levels to soar as the fruit ripens. High alcohol greatly increases the viscosity and makes the wine feel heavy in the mouth, while carrying the bold fruit aromas to our senses as the alcohol evaporates. Most wines from hot regions of California and Australia are high in alcohol.

The perfect bottle of hand-crafted artisan wine awaits at Island Winery on Cardinal Rd. Wine by the glass, cheese platters and $5 tastings are available Monday-Saturday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12-4 p.m. (843) 842-3141 or