The “Best Red Wines for Beginners” is definitely something I googled when I first started drinking wine. For me, it was so hard getting past my New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc obsession! Then I realized the more red wines I tried, the more I could figure out what I liked. For beginners, it’s important to start with wines that are approachable yet intriguing. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the best red wines for beginners and explain what makes them approachable.
Before we dive into specific red wines, let’s briefly demystify tannins. Tannins are natural compounds found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes, as well as in the oak barrels used for aging some wines. They contribute to a wine’s texture and structure, often making it feel dry and astringent in the mouth. Tannins play a crucial role in a wine’s aging potential, as they can soften and mellow with time, leading to a smoother and more harmonious wine. Some grape varieties naturally have more tannins than others. Some grapes have thicker skins or are smaller berries which leads to more skin to pulp ratio.
Red wines get their color from the skins of the grapes (same place they get their tannins)! Which is why white wines don’t really have ‘color’ or tannins. We can get more complex by talking about orange or rosé wines, but those are topics for another time…
Pinot Noir is often regarded as the ultimate red wine for beginners due to its light body and low tannin content. This grape variety shines in regions like Burgundy (France), Oregon (USA), and New Zealand. Pinot Noir typically offers flavors of red berries, cherries, and subtle earthy notes, all wrapped in a smooth and silky texture. Its gentle tannins make it incredibly approachable for those new to red wine.
Pinot Noir Recommendations
Save: Meiomi Pinot Noir
Splurge: Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2021
Gamay is another light and fruity red wine that’s perfect for beginners. It’s most famous for its expression in Beaujolais, France, where it produces wines with vibrant red fruit flavors like strawberry and raspberry. Gamay wines are known for their minimal tannins, making them exceptionally easy-drinking and enjoyable.
Splurge: Domaine Lapierre Morgon 2022
Frappato is a lesser-known gem from Sicily, Italy, ideal for those seeking something unique. This wine is characterized by its bright red fruit flavors, floral aromas, and a light to medium body. Frappato’s tannins are generally very gentle, making it a delightful choice for beginners looking to explore Italian reds.
Save: Planeta Frappato 2021
Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It offers a refreshing and slightly effervescent experience with flavors of red berries and a touch of sweetness. While it does contain some tannins, they are usually quite mild, allowing Lambrusco to be a pleasant and fun choice for beginners, especially when served chilled.
Zweigelt is an Austrian red wine variety that provides a balance between fruitiness and a bit more structure. You’ll find flavors of cherries and dark berries in Zweigelt wines, accompanied by moderate tannins. This balance makes it an excellent stepping stone for those looking to explore red wines with a bit more complexity.
Save: Sattler Zweigelt 2020
As you embark on your red wine journey, remember that there’s no rush to become a wine connoisseur overnight. Take your time to savor these beginner-friendly red wines and discover the nuances of each variety. Whether you opt for the light and silky Pinot Noir, the playful Gamay, the unique Frappato, the sparkling Lambrusco, or the balanced Zweigelt, you’re sure to find a red wine that suits your palate. So, raise your glass and toast to the exciting world of red wine exploration! Cheers!