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Gateway bottlings for red sip aspirers

Gateway bottlings for red sip aspirers

Many white wine lovers want to cross over into the world of reds, but it’s usually the heavy drying that tannins produce on the palate that stifles their leap. The tannins develop as red grapes soak with their skins during fermentation, a process most white wines do not undergo. This process creates a substantial difference in the taste of white and red wines.

The good news is there are many red wines with moderate or even soft tannins offering a subtle, juicy taste similar to white varieties. Here are a few that just might convert dedicated white wine drinkers to the enticing world of reds.


Lambrusco is the white wine drinker’s dream in a red wine. Not only is it refreshing, with barely noticeable tannins, it is extremely low in alcohol (usually only 8 percent ). It’s made in the Emilia Romagna region in Northern Italy. Many think of it as the sticky sweet wine in mass production in the 1970s. But don’t confuse all Lambrusco as being equal. Quality Lambrusco is such a joy to drink because it has a slight bubbly spritz with flavors of blueberry to strawberry.


  • NV Lambrusco dell’Emilia Lambrusco, Italy (about $10 retail)


  • NV Santo Stefano Lambrusco, Italy (about $14 retail)

Pinot noir

Pinot noir may be the standard for light-bodied, low-tannin red wine. You can compare it to almost the opposite end of the spectrum of a big, bold cabernet sauvignon. It is used in some of the most celebrated wines of all time, but can be found in values throughout the world. These wines will have low tannins and taste of strawberry and cranberry, with fresh fruity aromas.


  • 2013 Irony Monterey Pinot Noir, California (about $11 retail)


  • 2012 Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, California (about $24 retail)


Gamay is best known as the grape behind the famed Beaujolais of France. The most famous is Beaujolais Nouveau, which is bottled and on retail shelves within months of production. The reason for its freshness is because it is designed to be consumed within a year of bottling. Beaujolais is truly a white wine drinker’s bridge to trying red wines, with a light taste of strawberries, raspberries and ripe cherries.


  • 2013 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais, France (about $10 retail)


  • 2013 Louis Jadot Beaujolais, France (about $18 retail)

Acidity, tannin offer lessons in tasting

Smell WineThe best way to learn about wine is to taste it. Scouring through magazines and books will get you started, but until you pull the cork and taste the wine, the learning experience is lacking. Even the most modest of retail stores carry numerous offerings, many from unfamiliar grapes and growing regions.

One way to improve your buying and tasting skills is to get to know a couple of key grapes.


Acidity: When it comes to learning about acidity in wine, there’s no need to go further than the crisp, direct-in-your-face freshness sauvignon blanc offers. To understand the taste of acidity on your palate, bite into a Granny Smith apple and experience the sourness that causes a quick burst of saliva down the inside of your gums. Acidity is key in a wine’s refreshing makeup.

New Zealand’s Marlborough region, located on the South Island, is the most celebrated for its distinct green apple, vibrant, high-acid style. California and Australia also produce this grape, but those don’t have as keen a flavor as the searing acidity and grassy style of New Zealand grapes. California and Australia styles tend to be much riper, sometimes adding a bit of other grapes such as semillon, giving it less punch from sauvignon blanc’s typical green crisp style.


  • 2010 Rosemount Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Australia (about $10, retail)


  • 2010 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand (about $18, retail)


Tannin: Just as acidity gives a wine its youthful freshness, tannin acts as a sort of preservative to prolong great wines for aging. It creates a drying sensation on the inside of the gums, much like that produced by cold tea. Tannin is developed from the grape skins, stems or pips (bitter seeds of the grape) or by aging in wood. The thicker the skin of the grape — such as cabernet sauvignon, syrah or nebbiolo — the higher the tannin content.

The key to tannin is the skill of the winemaker in balancing the flavor for wines that are consumed soon after bottling and that of wines to be cellared for many years.


  • 2009 Estancia Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $17 retail)


  • 2008 Franciscan Vineyards Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $30, retail)