HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


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 ?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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.


                    2. Fantastic. for once someone who prefers white wines...

                      Sounds like you would enjoy earlier-maturing reds like zinfandel and valpolicella superiore. If you want sweeter reds yet, consider valpolicella recioto, late harvest zinfandel, or even port.

                      1. Why not try an Amarone from Italy. Because of the ripasso technique of using dried grapes it retains a slight sweetness while remaining a robust, full bodied wine. If you want to go the whole hog and have a sweet red you could try Amarone's relative Recioto Amabile della Valpollicella (although this is more a dessert wine). Both are great wines though

                        1. Try these and also Pierdirosso...

                          -Taurasi has an intense ruby color, which with age tends to show garnet hues and/or amber reflections. Tasting notes may include hints of cherry, wild berries, tobacco, liquorice, oak, tar, and black pepper. It’s best served with red meat, wild game, and mature cheeses, such as caciocavallo (provolone) or parmigiano.

                          -Aglianico is dense ruby red, sometimes with violet hues. Toasted almonds, wild berries, nutmeg, plum, spicy cloves are some of the aromas and flavors that may come to mind when drinking this ancient varietal. The aromas and flavors always depend on the location and the wine producer’s vision. Great with pasta, white and red meat, soups, and antipasti.

                          1. Maybe this thread has gone a bit stale but I just had such a SWEET red wine experience that I could not fail to mention here.
                            It is Argentinian "Clos De Los Siete" 2006 - a blend of mostly Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. What a lovely wine for only $16 a bottle. And it is definitely quite sweet. Just FYI Robert Parker gave it 92 points. Absolutely stunning wine for the price.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: olasek

                              Precisely the type of wine I mean. This is NOT sweet, as in containing residual sugar. It DOES have plenty of ripe fruit, however.

                              1. re: zin1953

                                Which brings me back to my theory ->
                                *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.*

                                Edited to add - obviously not just my theory ->

                                When you hear people that don't talk "wine-speak" say that want a "sweeter" red wine, I am pretty darn sure they're not saying they want a wine that has residual sugar in it. What they mean is that they want something ripe and fruity. I don't think the goal is just to avoid tannin. I think it's mostly the super-ripe fruit they're after, which will often be described as "sweetness" even though there's no residual sugar.

                                Case in point - I poured a 2004 Martinelli Giuseppe & Luisa Zin for a group last night, most of whom were not particularly wine-hounds, some of whom prefer white wines. Bingo - an absolute crowd pleaser.

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  I frankly don't care about the residual sugar and probably neither does the person asking the original question. Sweet flavor is what counts.

                                  1. re: olasek

                                    Frankly, Scarlet . . . . ;^)

                                    olasek, this has nothing to do with whether you liked the wine or not; no one can decide that for you -- your own taste buds do a better job of that than anyone, anything else can. This is rather about using words so that OTHERS can understand you when you describe a wine -- just as certain terminology applied to, say, Windows that doesn't apply to a Mac, or to certain cooking methods, etc., etc.

                                    NONE of the wines recommended to the OP are in fact SWEET (as in containing significant amounts of residual sugar) except for the Brachetto and, perhaps, some of the Zinfandels mentioned herein. (I don't recall: did someone also mention Lambrusco?) But -- as most of the people making recommendations have said -- to quote one single example as representative of many -- "I am pretty darn sure they're not saying they want a wine that has residual sugar in it. What they mean is that they want something ripe and fruity."

                                    I, too, would recommend -- if you haven't already done so -- you take a look at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/493901


                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      >> I, too, would recommend -- if you haven't already done so -- you take a look at

                                      I have seen that. To me it it is a typical Gobbledygook.
                                      It should be plainly obvious to everyone that the original question is not about absolute sweetness that can be measured by amount of sugar but relative sweetness to other dry red wines. This is a good example how you can twist a simple question into an excuse for boasters "see how much I know about wine".

                                      1. re: olasek

                                        IF that were true, then a number of people wouldn't have spoken of wines that were fruit-forward in response, but instead would have spoken about wines which are sweet.

                                        Why is it "obvious" that the original question was not about absolute sweetness (as you call it)? Because YOU know enough about wine to know that many people refer to fruit when they say "sweet." That said, I have found over the years that many people -- especially those just starting out -- do NOT know that. And rather than perpetuate an incorrect perception, it is much easier (and more useful) to use terminology properly.

                                        Indeed, your comment above about "relative sweetness to other dry red wines" is factually inaccurate. I can provide you with illustrations of wines which are (e.g.) 0.4% r.s. and seem less fruity ("less sweet" in your terminology) than another wine which may contain less than 0.2% r.s. This isn't about the "relative sweetness" -- it's about ripe fruit.

                                        It's no different than, say, one person asking about a roasting pan but really meaning to ask about a Dutch Oven.


                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          >> ndeed, your comment above about "relative sweetness to other dry red wines" is factually inaccurate.

                                          What is "factually inaccurate"? I am using my own notion of sweetness which as nothing to do with r.s or "ripe fruit". Am I allowed? Most people don't even know these terms. Is it so hard to understand this?

                                          1. re: olasek

                                            When people misuse a term, it can be quite difficult to understand. If I meant "dry" when I said "sweet," or "Democrat" every time I said "Republican" -- YES, I think people would have a difficult time understanding me.


                              2. hmmmm.. when I see the words not so tart and dry in connection with red wine, I immediately think of Beaujolais. and especially the crus Fleurie, St. Amour and Brouilly. There are quite a few of those in US wine shops, and the price is usually well under $20, even with the flat dollar.

                                1. There are actually 3 red wines from that I sell that are sweet. Mi Amore, Adesso and Mambo red...from Italy between $10-12. There is a Greek wine, Mouvredaphine (excuse the spelling) that is sweet. A lot of local wineries in Ct make some semi-sweet reds. Not mind blowing, but if you want it they have it.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: vino5150

                                    I do agree that Pinot Noir is a good red wine to start with. Another wine would be a Lemberger (aka Blaufrankisch) if you can find it. I often say that Lemberger is Washington State's answer to Oregon's Pinot Noir. Lemberger is a very fruity wine and there isn't a lot of tannins going on. I don't know if I would recommend a Zinfandel. Sure, they are often fruit forward and less tannins, but they can also be very high in alcohol. And as someone suggested above - - enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon (or even a Merlot or Cab Franc) with a good protien meal like with a piece of prime rib. It's how I learned to drink heavy red wines - a bite of prime rib, a sip of wine, (rinse, lather, rinse, repeat...)

                                    1. re: Walla2WineWoman

                                      Lemberger would be a great choice to start with!

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        *Lemberger would be a great choice to start with!*

                                        Except that 90% of the wine shops you go to will just look at you like you just sneezed (especially if you call it "Blaufrankisch") and half of the remainder will not have any such wine in stock.

                                        1. re: Frodnesor

                                          Depends upon where you live, doesn't it? ;^)

                                          1. re: zin1953

                                            South Florida poses lots of challenges to the wine experience. Not that you don't get good wines, but the wine industry has grown so quickly down here and there are not a lot of well established local spots to hunt around in the Miami-Dade area. We're the fastest growing wine drinkers (not that we're growing, our consumption is) but not necessarily the most refined palates have their foothold here

                                  2. Looks like this topic got resurrected a few months later, but I'll add my two cents anyway. Especially for people like the poster, I think serving temperature can be really important. Americans so often serve red wine frankly bordering on hot, and often hot (high abv) wine at that. The old wisdom of 20 before dinner taking the white wine out of the fridge and putting the red wine in still holds. And while I think a low-tannin Zin would be a great idea for someone like anmiller, I would say stick it in the fridge for a good 30-40 min first. You can appreciate the changes as it warms up, but the opposite doesn't happen naturally. And in the summer? Give me a good, chilled gamay any day of the week.

                                    1. You might consider Georgian red wine (not the US Georgia
                                      but the Caucasus Georgia). It is one of the oldest wine producing
                                      areas in the world, and its wines are naturally semi-sweet (i.e.,
                                      no sugar is added). Although my taste is more for dry red wines,
                                      I have had both Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara and found them
                                      interesting (not for every day but definitively worth trying once in a

                                      1. I had similiar experiences trying Red Wine for the first time. I was pretty certain after many attempts, that I just didn't like it. But I also found that I was sticking to the same ones; and didn't venture enough to find what I really liked. I have since discovered that I do NOT enjoy a straight Cab at all. It is just too dry for me, and is not easy to drink (at least not for me).... too tart and too much of a bite for easy drinking... someone mentioned the Tannins is the culprit; so I have eliminated that in my search.

                                        I tried Pinot... again, it's light; but again, left me unimpressed.

                                        So, I tried Merlot; more smooth, but too heavy for the summer, but love it in the colder months; especially with tomatoe sauce based foods like pasta, it's wonderful if you get the right one.

                                        FINALLY... I FOUND ONE !!! yahooooooooooo !!!

                                        Yellow Tail !!!
                                        They make an amazing blend of Cab/Shiraz

                                        You'd never really know there was much Cab... because it is so smooth, slightly sweet but not over sweet, and I had a glass the other night for the first time and I DEF. FOUND MY RED WINE.. done looking. It was exactly what I was looking for; just the right blend.

                                        It's all a matter of patience and eliminating by research and advice of others that you'll find the blend you enjoy.

                                        Try this one, you might enjoy it also.

                                        It was on sale at my local supermarket (NH) for $6.00 !!!!!