When choosing a red wine, whether you’re looking to buy your first ever bottle or want to broaden your horizons a little, it can be tough to choose the right red wine for you. There are a number of varieties, ideal pairings and regions you need to become familiar with. Despite all of the challenges, one thing remains constant, your palate. Knowing what you like and don’t like is the first step towards finding the right red wine for you. If you’re just starting out on your red wine journey or looking to try a few new drops, use this guide to discover your palate profile for red wine.

Varieties

The first step to red wine is to understand the different varieties that you have to choose from. The variety refers to the type of grape used to make the red wine. Varieties such as Tempranillo or Malbec are most commonly found in international regions and are unlikely to be your first starting point. Local varieties and some of the most popular red wines include Pinot noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Each of the varieties is very different and offers a unique taste to the palate. 

When you are first starting out with red wine, it’s advisable to go for lighter flavour varieties such as the Pinot noir. Known for its silky taste, Pinot noir is a fantastic introduction to red wine. For those, a little more adventurous, a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon are the bolder flavours in the red wine family. Shiraz can often have a peppery or spicy taste and is ideal for red wine drinkers who want to taste their wine at the end of the day. 

Taste

When it comes to finding the right red wine for your palate, it’s all about taste and preference. One of the best ways to identify the right red wine for you is to consider what other flavours you enjoy. If you like to try bold flavours and combinations, then a heavier grape is going to be best, like a Shiraz. These fuller body wines are perfect if your palate enjoys a textured or rich mouthfeel. If your palate is on the simpler side or you prefer something that won’t taste as heavy, then look for the lighter grapes, such as a Malbec. These wines provide an almost airy taste, whilst still giving the sense of a red wine experience. 

When assessing the taste of any wine, a component known as tannins is very important. Tannins represent the body of the wine and are a great way to identify a red wine you might potentially enjoy. Not all varieties are created equal and winemakers can make wines of the same variety taste very different. Focusing on the tannins is a good indicator of whether you’ll enjoy what the winemaker has put together. Red wines with lots of tannins will be best enjoyed by those who like a bold or pungent flavour. If your palate is more aligned to a subtle taste, look for red wines with low tannins.

Flavours

Every red winemaker uses distinctive flavour combinations to give their wine a unique flavour. Knowing the types of flavours you like can help find the perfect red wine for your palate. Certain regions and winemakers will use a higher acidic fruit for their wines, giving the wine a distinct character. Other regions will use more earthy or rich flavours like cherry or blackberries. Finding the right red wine for the palate can be as easy as reading the labels to find out what the core fruit flavours are coming through the wine. If you aren’t a fan of cherries, it’s advisable not to choose a wine that has been steeped with cherries. Flavour combinations make the wine, knowing your palate for fruity flavours is key to finding the right red wine for you.

Sweeter palate

If you’re someone who has a sweeter palate and doesn’t enjoy the body of standard red wine, there is still an option for you. Dessert wines are a good way to test the waters with red wine and see if the sweeter taste is a match for your palate. A challenge with dessert wines is to make sure that you aren’t pairing them with sweet food. A combination of two sweet things will inevitably leave you feeling a little sickly sweet and it’s likely you’ll regret the red wine more than the cake. If you are pairing red wine with sweet food, it’s important not to choose a wine sweeter than your food. You want a point of difference, a Merlot is often a great choice to enjoy with dessert and will match a sweeter palate nicely. 

Discovering a great red wine can be an incredibly rewarding achievement, especially after a big week at work. Understanding the varieties you enjoy, the region or winemaker you like, and how the flavour combinations taste are some of the best ways to learn more about your palate. Whether you’re just starting out with red wine or you have decided to pick a wine on something other than the label art, this guide will help you understand your palate and which red wine is best for you.