Red wine is made from grapes which have dark skins, and the skins are left in with the juice during fermentation. Grapes for red wine production can range in color from red to near black, with shades of blue, maroon and purple in between. Leaving the grapes in with the juice for the fermentation process allows pigment and tannins from the skin into the final product, producing the color and flavor that distinguishes red wine. Tannins impart bitter or astringent characteristics to the wine, but they also break down over time to form different smells and flavors--part of the reason that aging red wines can be so rewarding.
Red wine can be any color from pale red to nearly black. Color terms used by tasting experts to describe red wine include garnet, ruby, brick and violet. Flavor notes may include red fruits like strawberry, cherry and plum, spices like clove and cinnamon and other flavors like tobacco, leather and smoke. Some aging, in the bottle or in barrels, is typically done before the wine is sold. Red wines change and develop over time, and some red wines may be aged for decades in a well-built wine cellar.
A few popular varieties of red wine include Merlot, Shiraz, Syrah, Chianti, Pinot Noir and Grenache. They range from light bodied, low tannin reds to full-bodied, higher alcohol wines. Red wines can be made from a single type of grape or a blend of several. Excellent red wines are produced all over the world. Many well-known labels are produced in the area of Bordeaux, France, but popular red wines also come out of the United States, Australia, South America and all over the world.
Generally, red wines pair with heavier, more savory dishes than those paired with white wine. However, the particular qualities of the wine are more important. Lighter reds pair well with chicken, pasta and fruit, while full-bodied red wines will complement steak, richer cheeses and other savory or fatty foods. The tannic qualities of red wines cut through fatty flavors, enhancing the taste of the food.