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What type of red wine do I like?

Hi all,

So I'm relatively new to the wine scene, and being from the Bay Area, I have mainly tried only Napa/Sonoma wines.

I know the qualities that I like in a red wine, but I am betting that there's some type outside of California that generally covers most of the attributes I look for that I only rarely find in a Napa Cabernet. Can y'all help me figure out what I should try?

Things I look for, in order of importance:
Old oak rather than new oak
Jammy
Full-bodied
Light to medium tannins
Medium to long finish

What types of varietals or blends out there might match this profile? I think Bordeaux blends could be promising (only tried a couple to date, but enjoyed them), but I would appreciate any advice from you lovely folks. :)

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  1. Jammy means very ripe fruit, and with current wine fashions that generally goes hand in hand with new oak. Both are about winemaking style rather than grape variety.

    France and Italy make more wines that meet your criteria than California does. Morgon and Frapatto / Frapatto-Nero d'Avola blends would be good bets.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Good point. I'm always happy to be educated on wine. Thanks for the tips. :)

    2. Not sure if it would match the oak criteria but south American Malbecs might be worth a shot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chinaplate

        It's hard to find an Argentine Malbec that isn't overwhelmingly oaky.

        Old-school Cahors (another Malbec-based wine) such as Clos la Coutale is more balanced but rarely jammy and often pretty tannic.

      2. - Oak is a note that tends to integrate and drop out overtime. With a lot of CA wines, that means waiting 6 months to a year after release.
        - Jammy makes me think Zinfandel or a Grenache/Syrah blend...maybe Merlot
        - Full bodied drops out Pinot Noir, Tempernillo
        - Tannins, like oak, really integrate if you wait 6 months to a year after release
        - Any well made red wine should have a good finish if its in the first few years of release

        Try CA Zinfandel. Ridge for more food-friendly, built to last wines. Turley or Opolo for thicker more jammy versions.

        Also try Orin Swift's portfolio if you haven't already.

        -----
        Outside CA. Try French Rhone blends, esp. with Grenache as the dominant grape (Chataneuf-du-Pape is one such region).

        Bordeaux is a good idea as well - though very expensive. You may want to try the regions of Pomerol or St-Estèphe - In my opinion, they're more accessible at a younger age.

        15 Replies
        1. re: goldangl95

          <Bordeaux is a good idea as well - though very expensive.>

          Actually, that's only true for the classified growths. There are many Bordeaux reds that cost in the $15 - $30 range that are more than just drinkable. In fact they can be short-term ageworthy. I find them a great value.

          1. re: goldangl95

            In recent years, I have not found that California wines that I find too oaky get more palatable over time. With high alcohol and low acid resulting from overripe fruit, they're not structured to age well.

            I love Zinfandel but with the overripe / overoaking trend of recent years I rarely taste one that I like. Exceptions include Oak Ridge OZV Zinfandel and Zlatan (from Croatia).

            Turley, gak. One of the worst of the oak offenders.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                We often disagree on this. I've found even the more jammy less structured wines can certainly hold up for a year - and by then there is a marked difference in the oak notes. A year (in good storage conditions) is not particularly aging unless the wine is really poorly made.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Another Zinfandel that's out of the usual mold is Dashe's "Les Enfants Terribles."

                  http://www.dashecellars.com/wines/Zin...

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    My experiences are similar to yours.

                    If a wine is heavily oaked, that attribute/fault seems to follow it, throughout history, and seldom dissipate, to any degree, that I can ascertain.

                    Some "faults" can be moderated, over time, but not enough, that I would purchase a wine, and hope that it happens, but that is just me.

                    Hunt

                  2. re: goldangl95

                    Hmmm . . . comments from the peanut gallery . . . . .

                    >>> Oak is a note that tends to integrate and drop out overtime. With a lot of CA wines, that means waiting 6 months to a year after release. <<<

                    Unless the fruit fades first, in which case you have an over-oaked wine with little to no fruit. I've experienced this too many times to count.

                    >>> Jammy makes me think Zinfandel or a Grenache/Syrah blend...maybe Merlot <<<

                    High alcohol, overripe Zin, yes; High alcohol, overripe CA Syrah as "Shiraz," yes. Grenache, not so much. A truly good, not overcropped Merlot -- yes, but hard to find in CA. Best to go north to Washington State.

                    >>> Full bodied drops out Pinot Noir, Tempernillo <<<

                    I've had some surprisingly full-bodied Tempranillo from the Rioja, and far too many "new style" CA Pinots are produced in what I often call the "Pinot-as-Shiraz" style. Very full bodied wines.

                    >>> Tannins, like oak, really integrate if you wait 6 months to a year after release. <<<

                    Uh, yeah. See my comments on oak above. Or, for that matter, see my cellar of overly tannic, aged California reds with no fruit and lots of sediment.

                    >>> Any well made red wine should have a good finish if its in the first few years of release. <<<

                    Any well made red wine should have a good finish, period.

                    >>> Bordeaux is a good idea as well - though very expensive. You may want to try the regions of Pomerol or St-Estèphe - In my opinion, they're more accessible at a younger age. <<<

                    a) As Chef June has already pointed out, only the classified growths are very expensive; there are any number of delicious reds from Bordeaux in the $15-30 range.

                    b) Did you really mean to say "Pomerol or St.-Estèphe"? Pomerol, on the right bank, is always very high in Merlot and thus can be accessible younger (though many of the top estates need years in the cellar). St.-Estèphe, on the other hand, is a left bank wine that is very high in Cabernet Sauvignon and typically very tannic in its youth. (That said, St.-Estèphe is home to a number of terrific "petits châteaux".) St.-Émilion, however, is -- like Pomerol -- on the right bank, high in Merlot, and can often be approached while young, especially lesser châteaux and those from St.-Émilion's satellites. These are the appellations of Lussac-Saint-Émilion, Montagne-Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion, and Saint-Georges-Saint-Émilion.

                    Just my 2¢, and worth much less I'm sure . . .

                    Cheers,
                    Jason

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Have you experienced a lot of CA red wines where the fruit has dropped completely out in 6 months to a year after release? While I've certainly experienced the issue where the fruit drops out before the tannins/oak resolve. I don't think I've ever had that issue occur that early.

                      On the full bodied pinot note - Rusack does a nice full bodied Pinot (at least they did). With the cool vintage, I'm not sure how their latest release fairs.

                      On Bordeaux I'll cede to your opinion. We are in agreement with Pomerol. You are probably right about St.-Estèphe - my experience with Bordeauxs is not extensive and it just may be a coincidence that the ones I remember were more accessible and had a greater percentage of Merlot.

                      1. re: goldangl95

                        >>> Have you experienced a lot of CA red wines where the fruit has dropped completely out in 6 months to a year after release? While I've certainly experienced the issue where the fruit drops out before the tannins/oak resolve. I don't think I've ever had that issue occur that early. <<<
                        Yes.

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          <<Have you experienced a lot of CA red wines where the fruit has dropped completely out in 6 months to a year after release?>>

                          No more, than examples where the overuse of oak has dissipated in time - actually, fewer, as a heavy "oak hand" seems to follow the wine, for its life. That is one fault, that I do not see "fading away," but it might be relative to the examples, that I have been exposed to.

                          Hunt

                        2. re: zin1953

                          >>I've had some surprisingly full-bodied Tempranillo from the Rioja>>

                          I think exploring Rioja wines and wines made from the Tempranillo grape in general might be a very good area of exploration for you, Shokora. There's an inherent smoothness in this grape, and it usually makes wines with vibrant fruit.

                          Another great area of red wine exploration may be the Ribera del Duero wines, also made from the Tempranillo grape. I remember when I first discovered them -- I fell in love with this district. Among them, the Pesquera, mentioned below, is perhaps the most intense -- it's a beautiful wine, but it's more intense, with more structure and oak, than the other Ribera wines. No need to purchase the expensive Riberas like Pesquera or Vega Sicilia -- the regular releases are a better place to start.

                          I sense you may be after fruity wines with good flavor development rather than "jammy" wines. "Jammy" often connotes very ripe or over-ripe fruit, and with that comes high-alcohol.

                          I'd also explore the Southern Rhone wines (or that style of wine made in the US), wines with Grenache/Garnarcha, and the Beaujolais-Villages wines.

                          Try to find some good tasting rooms or restaurant bars
                          with good selections and taste a few things with friends. Good luck -- enjoy the ride.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Just wanted to say thank you for your post, it's very informative to this wine dummy. Especially that part about Bordeaux, as I do know that I prefer French wines to Californian wines.

                            1. re: cosmogrrl

                              Thank you for that.

                              Sometimes this forum goes off on tangents, but I hope you will always feel free to ask questions. The only stupid or silly question is the one never asked, and the only way we learn is by asking, so . . . ;^)

                              Cheers,
                              Jason

                              1. re: zin1953

                                Tangent? I mean "tangents?"

                                Of course there are tangents, but that is part of the fun... right?

                                Hunt

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  I liked the post, especially about the French wines, because it put a ton of information into one paragraph that other, professional writers take pages, even chapters to say. It was succinct!

                          2. Funny - seems to me the qualities you seek are commonly found in CalCabs except for maybe old oak. I think the opposite is true of Bordeaux. Do those who suggest Bordeaux really think of ithem as jammy and full-bodied with light tannins?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: FrankJBN

                              In the warm vintages, I do find some Bordeauxs (depending on the varietal makeup) jammy. Not compared to say a Southern California Zinfandel - but jammy for an old world wine. I am not a Bordeaux expert though - too expensive to explore with impunity.

                              If you want something unbelievably thick and ripe (but in a good way) try Amarone.

                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                I do agree that there are a number of CA Cabs that have many of these qualities, but usually for quite a price tag. I was just wondering if I have expensive taste, or if there was some other type of red out there that would generally fit my preferences. :)

                                1. re: Shokora

                                  I find these qualities in the most of the CalCabs I have enjoyed and I've never spent more than $30 on a CA wine.

                                  1. re: FrankJBN

                                    Neutral / no oak and jammy are a rare combination anywhere in the world these days.

                                  2. Try wines from the Coteaux du Languedoc region of France, wines made from Aglianico from Italy's Campania or Basilicata regions, Lagrein from Italy's Alto Adige, and Barbera d'Alba or Barbera d'Asti from Italy's Piedmont.

                                    You might also find some non-Duboeuf Beaujolais from the 2009 or 2010 vintage will work for you. Particularly Thivin's Cote du Brouilly.

                                    1 Reply