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Red Wine 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Learning What You Love


If you’re wondering how to get started with red wine, you’re in luck! This Beginners Guide to Red Wine will help you figure out what to try if you don’t know much about red wine. I interviewed a wine expert to get the scoop plus I’ll share what I’m exploring. Grab your glass, let’s drink wine!

Bottles of red wine next to wine glasses on a table.
Curious about red wine? Here’s my guide to help you learn about red wine.

How to get started with red wine

This beginner’s guide to red wine will help you figure out where to start when you want to try red wine or if you’re new to wine in general.

This red wine guide is not super comprehensive or for expert wine drinkers. It’s meant to simply be helpful to get you started and make it feel less overwhelming.

I’m normally a white wine drinker (I love you, Sauvignon Blanc), but I’ve always been curious about red wine. I’ve used red wine in some wine cocktails but never really drank it on its own.

Related: 5 Great Bottles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Under $20

Recently, I got the opportunity to ask a wine expert for his opinions on where to get started with red wine. I also had a chance to do some wine tasting in the central coast of California and tasted some delicious reds that I was surprised and delighted by. 

Wine tasting is a great thing to do with friends so you can share the wine and the costs plus it is always helpful to discuss the wine with other people. There are also wine-tasting products that you can buy that will help walk you through a tasting.

No matter how you taste them (because on your own is fine too!), just know there is no wrong way to do it. This should be fun!

If you want to try red wine in a low-key way, this post will share some of the best wine bottles and types to try that will help you figure out what wine you really love. You don’t even need to consider yourself a wine lover.

How to Choose Red Wine

5 bottles of red wine on a table.

Sometimes browsing the wine aisle can be super overwhelming for a wine beginner, so this guide will help you feel a little more comfortable about where to start. There really is no right or wrong way to go about it. But I’m here to help. 

I would say the best red wine for beginners is the one that you are the most comfortable with. While I don’t know much about red varietals and blends, I do know that I think I prefer something rich in flavor like a cabernet sauvignon. 

If you’ve had any of the following types of wines before and you know you enjoyed them, start there! Try to figure out what it is that you enjoy about them. Otherwise I would go down this list from top to bottom.

What types of red wine would you start with?

  • Beaujolias
  • Pinot Noir
  • Red Blend
  • Lambrusco

I chatted with AJ Kiamie, the founder of Kiamie Restaurant Group (KRG), as well as The Sipp on South Lamar and YŪGŌ Oxford in Mississippi. With extensive knowledge and passion for wine, he was definitely the right person to guide me.

He helped me put together this list of the best wines to help you figure out what kind of red wine you enjoy most.

His suggestions are below in quotations then I’ve sprinkled in some of my opinions too.

You can shop right from AJ’s wine shop and have them shipped right to your home.

To start, AJ shares suggests, “A great red wine, to begin with, is Louis Jadot Beaujolias Village, a French wine made with hand-picked grapes that has a mild flavor. If you enjoy Beaujolias, try a French Cotes Du Rhone.”

Beaujolias is light and fruity, and easy to drink, making it perfect for beginners who may not be accustomed to the bold flavors and tannin of other red wines. It’s smooth and approachable and a great starting point. 

Cotes Du Rhone is another approachable wine so if you enjoyed the first wine, this is a natural next step. 

AJ says, “Another red wine that’s great for beginners is Acrobat Pinot Noir. This Oregon wine is fruit-forward and goes well with a variety of dishes. Next, try a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.”

Pinot Noir is a popular red wine and could be a great place to start. They are typically smooth and won’t make your mouth pucker. They are flavorful without being too bold. There are many places known for great Pinot Noir and the Pacific Northwest is among the best. 

Another option from AJ is to “Finally, check out 19 Crimes Red Blend from Australia. It’s a great budget-friendly option that’s widely available. If you’re a fan, get a bottle of Lodi Zinfindel to enjoy next.”

Red wine blends are a great idea for getting a taste for red wine. They blend a variety of grapes to create a delicious wine journey in one bottle and often include red berry flavors. Exploring red wine blends is a good idea if you are looking for a wine flavor that you enjoy and aren’t super concerned about what grapes are used to get it. 

If you really and truly aren’t even sure if you really enjoy wine or very much prefer white wine (like me), I would try a Lambrusco (it’s fun to serve for a date night). It’s not a popular wine but you can find it at Trader Joe’s. It’s inexpensive, served chilled, and is a sparkling wine. It’s great to eat with oily meats and is light and refreshing. 

This is not at all a comprehensive list of the different red wine styles that you can try. There are things like Merlot, syrah and Malbec wine that you can also try, they may just not be the best place to start.

As I mentioned before, I like cabernet sauvignon. It’s full-bodied and full of red fruit flavor. But it can often be acidic and a little more in your face. So keep that in mind when assessing your taste preferences when deciding what bottle of wine to start with. 

Other tips for finding wine

Don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with your local wine shop and see what they suggest. They often can give the best advice based on the flavor preferences that you share with them. 

If it’s near the holidays, you may want to pick up a wine advent calendar. The mini bottles usually hold just a glass of wine and come in lots of varieties. The wine is typically not the best quality but may be a relatively easy way to get started.

Join a Wine Club and taste the wines as they come to your home. You can choose bottles or let the company decide for you. It takes all the guesswork out and you don’t even need to leave your home.

Don’t want to spend time figuring out the temperature of your wine or choosing a glass? Instead, opt for a tasting at a restaurant like The Sipp on South Lamar. Most places will have a full cellar with lots of options for a tasting and great small plates to cleanse your palette and satisfy your appetite.

Keep it Casual

I don’t think you need to set this up as a blind tasting like I did with my rosé tasting at home. If you’re like me and don’t know a lot about wine, then any wine you taste will essentially be a blind tasting.

Unless you feel like you have a lot of preconceived notions about red wine, just sip them!

You can use my wine-tasting cards if you are sipping with friends to keep things easy!

A sales box for printable wine tasting cards to use for a wine tasting.

Keep Track of What You’ve Tasted

Taking tasting notes (I love this tasting journal) is a great way to keep track of what you’ve tried and what you like. It can be hard to know how to talk about wine but these notes are just for you. If there is a flavor you taste immediately, make a note of it. If nothing else note where the wine is from, and if you liked it. 

You can also buy a flavor wheel (I have these in my drawer) to help you pick out the tastes and scents you are experiencing.

Making a note of where a wine was produced has come in handy for me over the years and helped me learn how to pick a bottle that I think I will enjoy. If you like a wine from northern Italy, chances are there is something about the flavor that you may like in other wines from that region. 

How to Serve Red Wine

Red wine being poured into a wine glass on a tray next to some bottles of red wine.

There are some key things to remember before you enjoy a glass of red. Here’s what you need to know about how to serve red wine.

The Best Glasses for Red Wine

Choosing the right red wine glasses can help bring out the flavors, textures, and hidden notes in a great bottle of red wine. Technically, the best glass will depend on the body of the wine you’re serving. If it’s a full-bodied red, choose a Bordeaux glass. Light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir are best in a glass with a wider brim.

Again, I don’t think you have to have the “right” wine glass or you’ll ruin the experience. It’s always good to use what you have while getting started and then buy what you need as you need it. 

A basic red wine glass is usually pretty versatile and just fine until you start to get really serious and then you can research and find something even better suited to what you love.

You can see all my favorite beverage glassware here.

How to Store Red Wine

Overhead shot of a wine glass holding red wine and other bottles of wine.

Red Wine Guide to Temperature

We typically serve red wine at room temperature. But if you want to get technical fuller bodied and bold red wines are typically served warmer while lighter red wines are served more chilled.

California Wines says that red wine is best served between 55 and 60 degrees.

Some resources even dial it down further depending on the type of red wine.

For example, some say full-bodied red wines are best served between 61 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Medium-bodied reds are best between 54 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit and light fruity reds can be served between 54 and 56 degrees Fahrenheit.

And here’s where I will keep it all the way real and tell you that I don’t have a wine fridge and drink all my red wine at room temperature. Unless it’s Lambrusco, which I serve from my fridge. 

California Wines does suggest putting a bottle of room-temperature red in the fridge for about 10 minutes before drinking which is great when you don’t have a designated fridge for storage.

The best storage temperature for wine is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can safely store your wine long-term between 45 degrees and 65 degrees Fahrenheit as long as there’s not a big change each day.

As I am not buying lots (or any) expensive bottles, I’m not as concerned about keeping things at the best temperature. I don’t have a wine fridge so I do my best to keep it out of sunlight.

How to Store Unopened Red Wine

It’s important that unopened wine is laid on its side for storage to keep the cork moist. Another good reason to store your wine this way is that it makes it easier to distinguish sediment in the bottle before you decant the wine for serving.

How to Store Open Red Wine 

What’s the best way to store a bottle of red wine after you’ve opened it? Open wine should always be stored upright to reduce the risk of oxidation with the cork pushed back into the bottle

Cooler temperatures slow down chemical processes. A re-closed bottle of red wine in the fridge will stay fresh for up to 5 days. The flavor will start to change and if you no longer like the taste to sip you can use the rest in red wine cocktails or other recipes.

You can read more about wine stoppers here from a beverage director.

When to decant red wine

You should decant red wine in two main situations, when it’s old or young. Decanting (pouring a bottle of wine into a decanter) helps to separate sediment that may have formed over time while an older wine was aging in the bottle. Decanting allows you to enjoy a smooth and sediment-free glass of red wine. 

You typically don’t let white wines age as much so you don’t have to worry about decanting a bottle of white.

A young and robust red wine sometimes needs a little breathing room. Pouring it into a decanter allows the wine to mix with oxygen which helps to open up those aromas and flavors. 

Don’t feel overwhelmed! Just grab a few bottles, maybe some friends and some paper and start sipping! You’ll feel more knowledgeable about what red wine you prefer in no time!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little red wine guide for beginners. Do you have any tips on how to get started with red wine? Share your favorite red wines and tips for other beginners in the comments.

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