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Red Wine For Beginners

We’ve all been there, we walk into a store to buy something, anything, and we’re confronted with a wall of choices! It’s no different in buying wine. Walk into any store and there aren’t just a few bottles to choose from, we have hundreds of bottles vying for our attention.

A range of bottles on a shelf, all with different labels and probably prices too.

Stop. Take a step back. The main thing we must always remember as a red wine novice, it’s like purchasing anything we consume, it’s not about anyone else, it’s personal and all about our tastes and budget.

Don’t get caught up in procuring that Grand Cru Burgundy for megabucks because you’ve been told that’s the only thing to be drinking. It’s like buying cheese: we don’t all like blue cheese, so why would you buy it just because someone told you to.

A bottle with a classic red wine label and two empty glasses on a table with river view on a terrasse.

How to choose a good red wine

First, understand what you like in everyday life. It might sound like stating the obvious, but if you like red fruits then there’s a good chance you’ll like Pinot Noir. If you like hearty, bold flavors, then you’ll probably like fuller bodied wines.

Secondly, a few facts to remember about Old and New World Wines. Old are the historic wine regions like Burgundy in France and Chianti in Italy, these have lower alcohol and subtle flavors compared to New World such as Australia and the United States, with higher alcohol and fruitier styles.

To cause maximum confusion, labelling in the Old World is often about the region and not the grape variety, in fact the variety is often nowhere to be seen on the label at all, but you will soon get to grips with it. Along with the same variety having different names like Garnacha and Grenache.

Thirdly, many wines can be described as simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re poor quality. Simple usually means a quicker product to market i.e. cheaper as opposed to a complex, expensive wine. These are the best red wines for beginners to start out on their journey.

A bartender serving red wine to a man in front of a wide range of red wine bottles.

Top red wine for beginners

Below are some general groups of wines going from light to full-bodied.

Two hands raising glasses of red wine in a toast.

All 5 categories are generalizations, but we need to start somewhere. Experiment when you’ve found a wine you like. Once you have started your journey go back into that wine store and speak to the staff.

They have probably tasted every single wine that they are selling, it’s a tough life for some, what they have to do for us, the wine lover! They will be able to direct you to a similar wine, within budget, or help you make that next step into the unknown.

A good option is to join a wine club. There are lots to suit all pockets. They have discovery cases, themes, some will have moneyback guarantees if you don’t like the wines, so you can’t lose. If they don’t and they have 2 bottles of the same wine and you didn’t like it, you can always gift it.

In conclusion

Start with what you like, fit things around your tastes and then experiment.

Remember that most producers will produce a range of wines at all price points. Try the next bottle up in the range. You can see if paying that extra works for you and was it worth spending the money for it. If not you know where to stop.

A good example is Rioja. Start with a young unoaked red like Campo Viejo Tempranillo, follow with the Crianza: Campo Viejo Crianza, then the Reserva: Campo Viejo Reserva and finish with the Gran Reserva: Campo Viejo Gran Reserva. These wines tell us the aging that the wine has been through; aging means longer to make, which means more expensive.

Rioja is the region and there are several varieties that are allowed in the wine, so each winery (Bodega, in Spanish) has a house style, like Beronia Reserva and Faustino V Reserva. If you like Rioja, experiment between producers and let your journey begin.