Grape and glass of red wine

13 Fun Facts About Red Wine

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Red wine is one of the world’s most beloved beverages, enjoyed for its rich flavors, aromas, and even potential health benefits. As one of the most widely consumed wines globally, red wine has a fascinating history and culture behind it.

In this post, we’ll explore 13 fun facts about everyone’s favorite crimson vino that you can use to impress your fellow wine enthusiasts!

1. Red wine gets its color from grape skins during fermentation

All grape juice is clear before going into a tank or barrel to ferment. So how does it turn red? During fermentation, red wine is left in contact with the grape skins, allowing the pigment (anthocyanins) from the skin to leach into the wine. The longer the contact time, the darker and more intense the final color.

2. You can make white wine from red grapes

It may seem counterintuitive, but you can make white wine from red grapes! Winemakers simply separate the juice from the grape skins early on during winemaking. Without that skin contact, the wine never picks up color and remains clear. Some examples are Blanc de Noirs Champagne or white Pinot Noir.

3. Red wine contains more health-beneficial compounds

Red wine is rich in polyphenols like resveratrol and proanthocyanidins. These antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds are linked with improved heart health and lower risk of certain cancers. In moderation, red wine delivers more of these beneficial plant nutrients than white wine.

4. Older red wines get lighter in color

As red wines age, they lose their rich ruby hues and develop more brick-red or orange tints. Why? As wine ages, anthocyanins break down while other pigments get oxidized. So even if an old red wine started out opaque purple, it lightens up over 5-10+ years in the bottle.

5. Red wine aroma comes entirely from the grapes

Hundreds of fruity, spicy, herbal, and nutty aromas develop in red wine through fermentation and aging. But surprisingly, winemakers don’t add any flavorings! Complex bouquets emerge from grape variety, fermentation techniques, oak aging, and chemical reactions over time.

6. Red wine gets its astringency from tannins

The drying, grippy sensation of red wine comes from tannins – compounds found in grape skins, stems and seeds that get extracted. Tannins help preserve wine and let it age. Bitter when young, tannins mellow out in older reds.

7. Red wine is aged in oak barrels

For red wines destined to be aged before release, oak barrel aging is key. The wood imparts flavors of vanilla, spice, and smoke while exposing wine to small amounts of oxygen through the pores. Top reds may spend 18-24 months or more maturing in oak.

8. Red wine is quite chemically stable

Two happy women having a glass of red wine at a bar

Compared to white wines, reds have more stable color, aroma, and flavor compounds. With its tannin, pigments and preservatives, red wine can maintain quality longer after opening and resist spoilage better than whites.

9. Red wine originated from the Middle East

Winemaking likely originated with early civilizations in eastern regions like Armenia and Georgia. As viticulture spread via trade routes, red wine became ingrained in Mediterranean culture by Greeks and Romans. Today France, Italy, and Spain lead red wine production.

10. Red wine pairs well with red meat

The high tannin content of red wine makes it the perfect pairing for fatty, rich red meats like steak or lamb. The astringency cuts through the meat while the flavor intensities match. Red wine also stands up to smoked/grilled meats.

11. Red wine gets better with age (sometimes)

Only top red wines truly benefit from years of aging. Over 5-15 years, flavors meld together while harsh tannins soften. But poor storage or inferior wine won’t improve with age! Know which reds have aging potential before you invest years waiting.

12. Red wine has lower alcohol than whites

Surprisingly, red wine averages around 12-14% ABV while whites are 11-14%. Why? Red winemaking techniques like extended maceration or oak aging give more opportunities for a tiny bit of alcohol to evaporate.

13. Red wine is the most popular wine globally

In 2020, red wines accounted for 46% of all wine sold in the US compared to 44% of white wine. The two most popular reds – Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir – make up almost half the market share for reds. Globally, reds also dominate thanks to French, Italian, and Spanish favorites.

Dry Red Wine in big wine glass
Dry Red Wine in big wine glass

Key Takeaways

  • Red wine gets its signature color from grape skin contact during winemaking, when pigments leach into the juice.
  • Older red wines lose their opaque hues and develop more orange or brick red shades as they age.
  • Hundreds of aromatic compounds in red wine come entirely from the grapes – no additives needed!
  • Popular bold, dry red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Syrah.
  • Red wine contains more health-promoting antioxidants and tannins than white wines.
  • When young, red wines have bitter, drying tannins that mellow out and integrate over 5-15 years of aging.
  • In most countries, red wines are more widely consumed than whites and hold the biggest share of the wine market.

Frequently Asked Questions About Red Wine

What are tannins in wine?

Tannins are naturally occurring polyphenolic compounds found in grape skins, seeds and stems. In red wine, tannins are what make your mouth feel dry and puckery. Tannins help red wine age well. The level declines as wines mature.

What is the difference between light and full-bodied red wine?

Full-bodied red wines feel thick, heavy and almost chewy in the mouth. They have intense flavor and high tannin. Light-bodied reds feel thinner, less tannic, and have more delicate fruit flavors. Medium-bodied is in between.

Why do red wines pair well with steak?

The high tannin content in bold, dry red wines works well with the fattiness of red meat like steak. The astringency cuts through the meat while the intense flavor stands up to charred, savory flavors from the grill or pan.

Should you drink red wine at room temperature?

Contrary to popular belief, red wines should not be served at room temp, which is often too warm! Cooler temps around 60-65°F allow you to better taste the wine’s flavors. Lightly chilled light reds are quite refreshing.

How long can an opened bottle of red wine last?

The clock starts ticking faster once red wine is opened and exposed to oxygen. Young opened reds last 3-5 days stored properly, while aged reds may survive 4-7 days. Always re-cork and refrigerate red wine to get the most life out of the remaining wine.

Conclusion

I hope these fascinating tidbits about red wine have enriched your appreciation of this beloved beverage! Red wine offers immense sensory and cultural pleasures. With knowledge of red wine basics like key grapes, aging potential, and food pairings, you can confidently choose and enjoy reds for any occasion.

The next time you open a bottle of velvety Cabernet or spicy Syrah, reflect on red wine’s rich history. And don’t forget to savor those luscious fruit and oak flavors in your glass! Thanks to red wine’s global popularity, there is an endless array of styles and expressions to explore.


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