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Feb 25, 2008 12:08 PM

Red Wines

I am normally a white wine drinker ... I want to try some red wines and I heard that there are some sweeter ones that aren't so tart and dry .... any suggestions as to which ones those are ?

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  1. Few red wines actually contain residual sugar, the way many white wines do. That said, there certianly are some which can seem "tart and dr[ier]" than others. What you are referring to is tannin, which will be astringent and "drying" on the palate. Young wines from Cabernet Sauvignon are the poster child for this, yet Cabernet is far from being the most tannic grape variety.

    Have you tried any wines made from Pinot Noir? Try a Pinot Noir from the Central Coast appellation of California, or one that simply bears the "California" appellation, and see what you think of that. Don't go out and spend a lot of money! (Why waste a lot of money if you don't know you like something?) Try to keep it between $10-15 or $20. Also try a Napa or California appellation Merlot, and maybe even a Sierra Foothills Zinfandel.

    ABOVE ALL, ask your local retail for his or her suggestions! He/she will know their inventory, and will be able to recommend a smooth, less tannic red to you.

    Post about what you tasted, and whether or not you liked it. From there, I -- and I am sure others -- will be happy to provide more (and more specific) recommendations.


    12 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      One of a very few instances where I've been inclinced to disagree with Jason. In my experience, California Pinot Noir and Merlot will often taste "softer" than many other red wines, but I don't know that they taste any "sweeter" or less "tart and dry." Plus, it is VERY difficult to find a decent quality example of either in an under $20 price range.

      While true that most red wines do not have residual sugar, I think that more ripe, fruit-forward styled wines have more of a sensation of sweetness that might hit the OP's taste buds right. I'd look for -

      - zinfandels (red not pink) from producers such as Rosenblum (if they still do the Vintner's Cuvee this is often a decent "entry level" bottle), Seghesio (a little pricier), Joel Gott, Cline.

      - Aussie Shiraz - I don't drink many of these any more, but there's plenty of producers of ripe, low-acid Shiraz for under $20

      - grenache and grenache-based blends - I find that many grenaches have an inherent raspberry-ish sweetness to them. Not many US producers. Wines from the Cotes du Rhone in France are often blends of several grapes but grenache will often be a key component. You may also see Spanish wines sometimes labeled as "garnacha". Las Rocas is a good reasonably priced Spanish example.

      1. re: Frodnesor

        Actually to clarify my thinking, I am specifically thinking of wines to START OUT WITH -- like KJ Pinot Noir or Merlot and the equivalent. All I'm trying to find out is if the variety works for the OP . . . and THEN move on to high quality selections. These may or may not be over $20, but the point is to taste Pinot Noir first and see if it has any appeal . . .

        1. re: zin1953

          I agree with the strategy but disagree with the implementation - for the reason that there is generally very little to be found appealing about most under-$20 pinot noir or merlot. If you buy one and don't like it, it doesn't necessarily mean you don't like pinot noir or merlot - it just means you don't like insipid wine.

          On the other hand, there are several decent or better zinfandels, Australian Shirazs, and Spanish and Rhone grenache-based wines that can be had for well under $20 that are highly enjoyable drinking experiences. Many of these will be fruit-forward, low-acid wines that will give a perception of sweetness.

          1. re: Frodnesor

            A sampling of Pinot Noir -- all between $10-$20:
            "A" by Acacia
            Acacia -- "basic" Carneros
            Brancott -- New Zealand
            Cambria, Julia's Vineyard
            Castle Rock -- Monterey
            Chalone -- Monterey
            Chateau St. Jean -- Sonoma
            Clos du Bois -- Sonoma
            Edna Valley Vineyard -- Edna Valley
            Estancia -- Monterey
            Firesteed Oregon
            Fleur de California -- the former "Fleur de Carneros"
            Gallo of Sonoma
            Irony -- Monterey
            Jekel -- Monterey
            Kendall-Jackson -- California
            Kenwood -- Sonoma
            Kim Crawford -- New Zealand
            La Crema -- California
            Mark West -- Sonoma
            Ramsay -- Carneros
            Rex Hill -- Oregon
            Rodney Strong -- Sonoma
            Saintsbury "Garnet" -- Carneros
            Sebastiani -- Sonoma
            . . . to name a few, and this doesn't include the many Bourgogne rouge botttlings one can find.

            A sampling of Merlot -- all between $10-$20:
            Alexander Valley Vineyards -- Alexander Valley
            Beaulieu -- Napa
            Benziger -- Sonoma
            Beringer -- Napa
            Buena Vista -- Carneros
            Canoe Ridge -- Washington
            Chateau Ste Michelle -- Washington
            Chateau Ste. Michelle "Indian Wells" -- Washington
            Chateau St. Jean -- Sonoma
            Franciscan -- Napa
            Gallo of Sonoma -- Sonoma
            Geyser Peak -- Sonoma
            J. Lohr -- Paso Robles
            Kendall-Jackson -- California
            Kunde -- Sonoma
            Markham -- Napa
            Murphy-Goode -- Sonoma
            Pedroncelli -- Sonoma
            Rodney Strong -- Sonoma
            Sebastiani -- Sonoma
            Simi -- Sonoma
            St. Francis -- Sonoma
            Wild Horse -- Central Coast
            William Hill -- Napa

            All the above examples are found at ONE store.

            I would AGREE with your general comment about "insipid" IF we were talking about the "under $10" category . . .


            1. re: Frodnesor

              OK, so I read, re-read and then re-read the OP's comments. Where does the <US$20 come into the equation? Man, I must need new contacts, as I did not see that part on any reading.

              I do agree that there are few wines, <US$20, that really give one much, in the way of varietal character. In Merlot and PN's, I can not think of any, by my palette. Yes, every now and then, I do find one (same for Cab), but they are few, and very far between.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I think the <$20 was an arbitrary addition by subsequent posters on the assumption that a white wine drinker just starting to experiment with red wines will not want to plunk down a lot of money just to see if there are red wines s/he might like.

                Jason, I'll confess that I've not drunk most of the wines you list except as BTG offerings, where I've generally (but not universally) been underwhelmed (and still can't claim to have tried them all). I would second the Acacia, Brancott, Rex Hill, Saintsbury, Ch. Ste. Michelle recs.

                1. re: Frodnesor

                  For the Acacia Carnerors, I'd gladly jump in and second it. At ~US$23 at Costco, I have found it one of the better lower-cost PNs in my market. It's a good sipper, and good with a lot of food. It also shows well with a year, or two, in the cellar. I'm hoping for a few more years, as I have several bottles, that I cannot reach in my cellar, because of the cases stacked on the floor! May they last, until I can get to them.


                2. re: Bill Hunt

                  Bill, the <$20 was completely arbitrary on MY part. I plead guilty.

                  But it stems from the Original Poster saying, "I am normally a white wine drinker ... I want to try some red wines and I heard that there are some sweeter ones that aren't so tart and dry."

                  Keeping that in mind, it's my theory that you don't run out and spend $200 on a Grand Cru Burgundy before spending $20 on a Bourgogne rouge or Côte de Beaune-Villages to see if you even like Burgundy. Ditto with ANY red wine for someone who is "normally a white wine drinker" and looking "to try some red wines," quite possibly for the first time.

                  In any retail store that I ran, I'd want to make sure that customer came back . . . again and again. And with that in mind, I'm not going to suggest an expensive bottle right off the bat. I want to make sure the OP likes that kind of wine before I suggest that they spend "the big bucks"!


                  P.S. There are several of those Pinot Noirs that I would happily drink . . . .

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Jason & Frodnesor,

                    Thanks for the clarification. I was starting to question my reading comprehension skills. I can see how this price-point can be used for the beginning wine drinker.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      It's just old-fashioned me, but I've always thought one should learn to walk before one attempts to run the 400-meter hurdles . . . or, more to the point, why go out and buy Krug or Salon if you don't even know you like Champagne? ;^)

            2. re: Frodnesor

              I'm still a fan of the bigger, juicy Central Coast PNs, especially if one does not want tannic reds. I must have missed the <US$20, as none, that I am thinking of, come in at that price point. Sorry for not reading clearly.


            3. re: zin1953

              I agree concerning the fruit-forward Central Coast CA PNs. I'd also add many Syrah/Shiraz reds, as possible candidates.


            4. Zin1953 makes an excellent point about the tannins, and his suggestions are excellent. I also think you might like to try some syrah/shiraz or Southern Rhone blends which have a lot of big fruit, they may also be easier to approach.

              One other key point. Drink reds with food that go well with reds! It will go a long way to helping you get used to the tannins, and it is a lot of fun! Rich stews, casseroles, roast meats, go to town! With food, you'll be less put off by the strong tannins. Have fun...

              1. >> I heard that there are some sweeter ones that aren't so tart and dry .

                Yes, you will find California Zinfandel in this category. If you can afford wines in the $20-25 category you should get a beautiful rich Zinfandel that could have a slightly sweet flavor.

                1 Reply
                1. re: olasek

                  I do agree with the Zins. While I still love my Turley's and Biale's, almost anything from Rosenblum (especially near the bottom of the price scale) is very fruit-forward, with lower alcohol and should fit in nicely.

                  I love passing on the cult Cabs at steakhouses, and grabbing a great Zin for my steak. Also, wife experiences some problems with younger reds, but Zins seem to suit her system quite nicely - as does Sangiovese. Go figure...


                2. I think that for many red wine is difficult because it is such a departure from what we are raised to think of as a "beverage" (cola, tea, lemonade) because of its dryness. One can easily find white wines that aren't tremendously dry but when it comes to red if you wish to enjoy it you'll have to let go of old notions of what a "beverage" is.

                  1. My wife likes Branchetto. It is a slightly sparking Italian wine that has a very pleasant strawberry flavor. Not a red, but could be a stepping stone to reds.............

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: TonyO

                      Can I make a suggestion from a non-expert? Have your red wine with a good steak or other fatty protein. The tannins will smooth out. For me this is one of the beautiful things about red wine (all wines really) is how they change with food. Zinfandel goes wonderfully with a bbq, as does a very inexpensive option...the malbec from Argentina. Also make sure your wine breathes long enough, this makes a big difference.

                      1. re: cleopatra999

                        Along those same lines, I often serve younger reds (high tannic structure) with foods like walnuts, as the tannins in these make the young reds seem "aged," in comparisson.