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Mar 22, 2011 07:58 PM

Red Wine for a Non-Wine Drinker?

My doctor recently told me I shouldn't drink so much beer and liquor and should replace it with wine- preferably red because it won't jack with my blood sugar as much and is generally healthier. The thing is I have almost always found red wine to be kind of tannic, acidic and bitter and just not very tasty to me. Growing up I would drink my parents cheap Carlo Rossi Paisano wine (nasty!) and boxed wine. I wasn't drinking it for the taste.

Recently I told a friend about this and she bought me a bottle of Malbec wine from Argentina which was really dark but there was not much off-putting about it and it wasn't bad at all. However it is not available at my little corner liquor store. I also have tried some white Merlot which was okay.

Really I am clueless and don't know the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet. Can anyone recommend some other wines that would be fairly mild tasting for me to try? Also easy to find and not overly expensive? Any advice would be most appreciated!

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  1. There are many red wines, that do not exhibit tannins that high. A start would be Cru Beaujolais (even the Villages would be worth the efforts).

    It's all about the grape, the style and what you like.



    17 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      many of the reds from the Loire,especially the Touraines, are not oaked -- so tannins are minimal.

      You won't likely find them at the corner liquor store.

      Unfortunately, the US wine industry is still very much in love with big oaky tannins...there are some produced without, but not very many. Head for French wines (they're not always expensive, by the way) -- and you might find something a little more drinkable to your palate.

      (I'm not knocking Italy, Australia, or Spain, by the way -- I don't know the varietals and regions as well as I know the French ones, so can't really make an educated recommendation.)

      1. re: sunshine842

        Well, tannins usually come from extended contact with the skins, pips, etc., and oak is but a part of the mix.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          absolutely -- but oak is usually responsible for the "my mouth is shriveling up" feeling that some folks don't care for.

          Skins and pips don't generally leave you feeling like your lips and gums are suddenly two sizes too small.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Exactly the flavor profile I am trying to avoid. Thanks for putting it so eloquently!

            1. re: LorenM

              I am very sensitive to excessive oak treatments, and I'm starting to believe that an (IMO) over-oaked young wine will never integrate. The tannins will smooth out a bit, of course, but the oakiness will continue to jut out all gangly like a third arm.

              I like sunshine's rec for the Touraines, and one I'd recommend is the 2009 Jean-Francois Merieau "La Bois Jacou" Touraine (variety: gamay noir) for about $12/btl. If you like it, then you might want to put a few dollars more toward some 2009 cru-Beaujolais. Look for some recommendations, especially for those vinified via carbonic maceration (whole cluster) as there are fewer tannins and a much lighter, almost lace-like texture. You might also look for whole-cluster/carbonically macerated pinot noir from Washington or Oregon, which is a bit less vinous than the crus can be, often tasting like a bowl of fresh crunchy berries.

              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                Well, Ricardo, an over-oaked young wine is going to turn into an over-oaked older wine. If it's not well balanced to begin with, age isn't going to help it.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  Not necessarily -- I've had a number of wines that were pretty hard tannins and a few years later the tannins had mellowed, leaving a very well-balanced wine that didn't make you pucker.

                  I've also had a few that were beautifully balanced at purchase...and a few years later, the tannins had mostly dissipated, leaving the wine a bit hollow.

            2. re: sunshine842

              "Skins and pips don't generally leave you feeling like your lips and gums are suddenly two sizes too small."

              Really? I find Nebbiolo based wines for example to be very tannic (i.e. mouth drying, bitter). You are saying that that flavor profile is not from the grape but from oak? From what little I know (and I'm here to learn) new oak provides a sweet vanilla flavor, while non new oak can give a dry leathery taste.

              1. re: Chinon00

                I didn't say anything about flavor profile, I was talking about tannins, which aren't tightly tied to flavor profiles (there are great and not-so-great oaked wines, just like there are great and not-so-great unoaked wines).
                I don't even pretend to be knowledgeable about Italian varietals (and said as much upthread).
                My comment has a big "don't generally" in there.
                They don't use Nebbiolo in France, so I'll freely admit I had to look it up to find out about their highly-tannic tendencies.

                Obviously, Nebbiolo is not a good wine for the OP.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Do you find both red and white wines to be "tannic"?

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    not unless it's a California-type chardonnay, with big oak.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Ok what I'm describing as tannic I've never found in any white wine. We aren't talking about the same thing.

                      1. re: Chinon00

                        You're right about the *flavors* contributed by oak...but tannin is the feeling that all the moisture has been sucked out of the surfaces in your mouth...brew a very strong cup of plain black tea (not herbal, not flavored,and don't add sugar or milk) -- let it brew for 15-20 minutes -- then taste it (don't take a huge gulp, it's not all that nice) That cottony, sticky dry feeling is tannin.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          And you are getting this from oaky Chardonnay wine? Any particular producer?

                          1. re: Chinon00

                            I *really* don't like aggressive tannins and big oak, so I haven't bought one in over a decade, so couldn't give you a producer on a bet.

                            Tannin and oak *flavor* are not the same thing, by the way -- tannin is a part of the total tasting experience, but tannin is not a flavor.

                            Along with the tea, if you've ever bitten into an underripe persimmon, then you know what tannin feels like.

                            I took part in a big wine tasting last weekend, and it's too bad it can't be copied and published -- it was a poster child for assertive tannins. The color was gorgeous - a dark ruby, with a big berry nose and a beautiful full round flavor of black fruit and pepper and leather...then the tannins kicked in and it was like having had your mouth dried out with cotton. I actually had to get a sip of water, because it felt like my cheeks were stuck to my teeth...pity, actually, because the rest of it was amazing.

                            There had been another wine in the same flight (different producer) that had a similarly lush nose and flavor, but the tannins in it were far better managed, and it was the proverbial Baby Jesus in velvet slippers...that wine took our table by a landslide, by the way.

              2. re: sunshine842

                Well, the tannins can be from the oak, but also from the time, that the skins, pips, etc., spend with the wine. It is not always about oak, but it can certainly play a role. A bit of list A, and maybe a bit of list B, plus perhaps some elements from list C.

                What many find as objectionable, is often attributed to time in oak, but that is not always the case. Many more factors can enter this equation.

                As an anecdotal example, a friend loves many FR Chards, but is less a fan of US Chards. She thinks that it's ALL about the oak. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it is about much more. It could well be a Chard with ML (Malo-lactic secondary fermentation), or the time on the lees, or maybe even the Chard clone chosen. Lot of variables.


                1. re: sunshine842

                  Oh, but they do, though you might not be aware of the "cause."


          2. You might like more medium weight wines like a Perrin Reserve Cote du Rhone, Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel or Merlot and maybe even a Nero d' Avola which has some fruity notes to it. All of these are usually around $10 or less, especially if you have a Trader Joe's in your area. (If so, I think you'd really like the Cocobon if your region carries it)

            1 Reply
            1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

              There are fine value Cotes du Rhones (Perrin, Delas, Chapoutier), good mid weight Italian reds (Palazzo della Torre from Allegrini, Campo Fiorin from Masi, a good nero d'avola fromm Sicily Cusumano) and Riojas with some age that do not say fruit bomb.

            2. If you're not looking for a high alcohol wine, you'll probably like a Malvasia. Usually on the sweet side, very slight bubble to it, and very easy to drink.

              1. LorenM, if you have a Total Wine by you, you might try D'autrefois Pinot Noir, right around $10. I like red wine but can't stand big fruity sugary reds that everyone seems to market these days and some of them have outrageously crazy alcohol content...I saw 16% on a California red label the other day--wasn't Ravenswood but another big-label name. eesh!

                8 Replies
                1. re: Val

                  There are a few larger liquor stores in my area. I have had wine that was too sweet too. Yesterday I bought another Malbec (Bodega something or another) from Argentina since I kind of like the first one. I am going to give it a whirl this evening. I noticed they did have cru beaujolais there as well for about $14 which a couple of posters here recommended. There have also been a couple of mentions of pinot noir, so I assume these aren't the long oaked, tannic, dry-your-mouth- out varieties. I really appreciate all of the suggestions and am anxious to try some of these! Hopefully it opens up new worlds!

                  1. re: LorenM

                    And as many other posters recommend in other threads, see if you can catch a wine-tasting...Total Wine has them I think every weekend. Why do I like Pinot Noirs so much? To me, they are lighter, and taste a bit of cherry...AND I've read that resveratrol levels are highest in pinot noir wines, an added health benefit. (but please: moderation as your doc probably also said...eeesh!) Plus I can find PNs at lower alcohol levels, me this, is also important. And thus, they are mostly from France and Italy since California is so smitten with producing high-alcohol wines it seems.

                    1. re: LorenM

                      Like burgundy, beaujolais is VERY producer/vigneron driven. Don't think you can pick up just any old cru and expect to get something "recommended". For example, I wouldn't recommend the Descombes Morgon, but I highly recommend the Foillard Morgon. I also adore Lapierre's Morgon, but it is quite a different beast than Foillard's. I like Chateau des Jacques' Moulin-A-Vent, a deeply structured almost burgundian cuvee, but I prefer Jean-Paul Brun's which, though needing age, is a bit racier and lighter on the palate. Coudert's Clos de la Roilette Fleurie is drinking great right now, but his cuvee tardive will easily best it with a bit more age.

                      In short, Malbec often tastes the same from Bodega Whatever and Bodega What-was-that-again? because they're often vinified in the "globalized" style that strives for a single overarching expression most appealing to the mass market. Burgundy, Beaujolais, Loire Valley, etc., are VERY producer driven wines often revealing small distinctions in adjacent terroirs as well as the "house style".

                      I know this may sound like far more complexity than you're after. But should you tire of a certain, overworked, ubiqutous "international" style, you'll come to greatly appreciate the vast diversity in other parts of the wine world.

                      1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                        I am discovering the world of wine is extremely complex and is going to involve much trial and error. The Cru Beaujolais I saw was The Villages that Bill Hunt mentioned. You are right about the Malbec- it didn't have anything that stood out as far as complexity but it didn't taste bad at all either (which to me is saying something) - kind of a generic tasting wine. I think I would like a bit more character though to tell you the truth. I have been writing down some of these recommendations and keeping them in my wallet so really appreciate all the feedback.

                        1. re: LorenM

                          when you're ready for big bold Malbecs, try a Cahors from the southwest of France.

                          For now, just jot it in your notebook, because you won't like's almost black, complex, and rich....and a real favorite at our house.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            l haven't seen an old style Cahors for a while. Go through the Cahors once a year on my way to Toulouse and the wines seem to keep getting lighter. Easy to see through the black wine. In earlier days light would not even go through it. That was why switched to Madiran, tannat makes wine very dark and delightfully impenetrable.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              they're still out there, but yes, they're getting harder to find. I tried one at a recent foire -- it was a blend of Malbec and *can't remember* -- and it was a very nice wine, but it was NOT Cahors.

                      2. re: LorenM

                        Pinot Noir is a grape, that does not do well with long contact with the skins, pips, etc., but can age in oak, nicely - depending on the desires of the winemaker.

                        Many "fruit-forward" wines have lower tannin levels (though not always).

                        Too many folk will attribute some aspect of a particular wine to one element, when it is usually much, much more complex, than that. Some focus on oak, and some on time with the skins, or even the lees. In the end, it's about THAT wine, and what the winemaker wished to achieve. The variables can be fermentation (initial, plus any secondary), the clone used, the vessels used for fermentation, and for aging, plus the vintage, the region and the varietal. Such are the "mysteries" of wine. To me, one should focus on the particular wine, and not try to cubbyhole one aspect, as that might not come into play on the next wine on the list.

                        Many Mendozan Region Malbecs are quite fruit-forward, and are designed to be consumed fairly early. They are often (though not always) designed for just such usage, and will often be a tad less tannic, than some other versions of the Malbec grape.

                        It is almost impossible to ascribe certain characteristics to any one varietal, or even to that varietal in one region. There WILL be differences, depending on what the winemaker is trying to attain.

                        For me, it is all about the balance, regardless of the "numbers" involved. Higher alcohol can yield "silky" wines, so long as everything is in balance. Low alcohol wines can be in balance, so long as other aspects line up. When you find a varietal, and a producer (or maybe Region, or sub-Region) that you like, explore their wines. Do not try to use one such wine, as a template for others. They might fall in line, or maybe not. It all just depends.

                        To me, the journey is worth the price, as one can experience so many variations. I love my FR Chards, and often group several into neat little columns of styles - but then there are exceptions - vintages, vineyards, etc., so a Puligney-Montrachet might differ from Ronin to Flavier. A Mersault might be more acidic from one producer, or negotiant, than the same vineyard, but from another winemaker. There are not that many "constants" in wine, and one should keep an open mind, and taste as much, as they can.



                    2. I'm going to throw Montepulciano d'Abruzzo into the mix. Not always the easiest to find as many shops have over whelming selection of chianti and not much else in terms of italian reds. Not too pricey, should be able to get something decent for under 14 dollars (depending on your area).

                      actually all of these wines are generally cheaper because they are wines you drink early and don't put in a cellar for years.

                      Oak flavors and tanin flavors are two different things i'm confused by most of this thread???