There’s no doubt it can be confusing starting out with red wine. There are literally hundreds of varieties of red wine out there, and as much red wine information to learn than you could shake a stick at. In fact, some people spend their whole life learning about wine, trotting to all corners of the globe to discover new gems.

With that being said, primarily there are just a handful of red wine varieties that you will encounter most often. See below the most popular socialites, or well known as the ‘classic red wines’ that one should get familiar with when starting.

It is better being confident with just a few; that conquering the many. That way you can return to those you like most, time and time again.

Which Red Wine Varieties Should I Get Started With?

No doubt you have heard of these distinctive red wines in your lifetime. We recommend learning the basics of these red wines.

List of basic classic red wine - illustration by Wine Folly

How Long Will Red Wine Age?

Red wine is championed for its age-ability, but in order for a wine to age to its full potential it must be stored correctly. And that’s what we’re all about.

How long wine wine lasts in the cellar, completely depends on the quality of the wine that went into making it. That being the grape from the harvest as well as the techniques used by the winemaker afterwards. One of the major determinants will be the that years harvest.

You can see the vintage chart for many wine growing regions across the world, by clicking the Wine Advocate Vintage Guide (Robert Parker) here. For a deeper look at the sub-regions in USA click here.

Certain types can be aged for just 3 to 5 years, while others can remain in a cellar for decades. Additionally, some bottles have already been aged before you even get your paws on them in bottle stores.

Will reserve wines last longer?

Some terms that will indicate whether your wine is aged inclde, Reserva, Riserva, and Gran Reserva. Reserve wine is wine of a higher quality than usual, or a wine that has been aged before being sold, or both. Traditionally, winemakers would reserve some of their best wine rather than sell it immediately, coining the term. Higher quality grapes, generally lead to higher quality wines with a longer lasting potential.

Experts vary on precise numbers, but typically state that incredibly, only about 5–10% of wine improves after 1 year, and only 1% improves after 5–10 years. Generally though, wines with a low pH (Such as Pinot noir and Sangiovese) and higher tannins (like Nebbiolo, Cabernet and Syrah) have a greater capability of aging.

Factors that affect the aging process for red wine are:

  • Temperature,
  • Light,
  • Humidity,
  • Movement, and
  • Oxidization (once open)

What temperature do I store red wine?

Red wines should be stored at about 50 to 59 ° Fahrenheit (or 10 to 15 ° Celsius), which is usually below the ideal serving temperature.

In saying that, there will be little harm to your red wine if stored between 59 to 68 ° Fahrenheit (or 15 to 20 ° Celsius), as long as the temperature does not fluctuate too dramatically causing the wine to expand and contract (like water) very quickly.

Wine stores too warm:

Wine that is stored too warm will accelerate the aging process. Wine stored in too-hot temperatures causes the fruit characteristics to turn mushy and baked. Those red wines in temperatures above the recommended can actually cook your wine. No thanks!

Wine stored too cold:

When a red wine is stored at a temperature too cold, this can also damage the wine. But is generally not as dangerous as overheating the wine.

Converse to warm wines, low temperatures slow the aging process. But if your wine doesn’t freeze, there likely won’t be any extensive damage. Colder temperatures, like a 40° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius) refrigerator, are fine for short-term storage.

More likely to happen with white than with red wine… What happens if you accidentally freeze your wine? Wine that freezes is not ideal. The liquid expands when wine freezes and can push out the cork. Frozen wine is compromised, or worse – may crack the bottle entirely. Minor changes to temperature are safe however, just try to keep your wine at the most consistent temperature possible.

Why are Red Wines Bottled in Darker Bottles than White Wine?

Red wines are bottled in green or brown tinted bottles to protect them from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Light-bodied wines are at a greater risk of being spoiled by light than full-bodied wines, but it’s best to avoid any long-term exposure to light, both natural and artificial. UV rays can break down compounds in the wine causing it too age more rapidly, and light carries damaging heat as well.

A delicate balance of humidity is also vital to red wine storage. Wines kept in a dry environment put the cork at risk, if the cork dries out it can shrink and allow oxygen to seep into the bottle or wine to leak out.

Red Wine & Food Pairings

Is there anything better than a big red wine with your lamb chops? Red wine is a popular choice for. the diner table. This is because of their firm structure, dark juicy fruit flavours and tannings.

Fuller body red wines pair best with:

General rule is that heavier-bodied red wines will pair well with denser and heavier foods, like beef, lamb and goat.

Lighter body red wines pair best with:

Lighter bodied red wines with high acidity pair well with light meats; like salmon, chicken and goat, as well as vegetable dishes.

Hack: Matching the weight of the wine with the richness of the food leads to successful and harmonious pairings.

The old adage, “what grows together, goes together” holds true as well. For example, traditional tomato sauce Italian dishes pair well with the high-acid red wines of Chianti. In general, a region’s wine will pair well with the food and lifestyle of the area.