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Light Bodied Red Wine

  • Previously I started writing a series on the Nine Styles of Wine. As the following months went by in a bit of a blur of putting glasses into boxes and processing as many orders as possible, in order to keep up with demand (thank you very much for your continued support!), it fizzled out after Full Bodied White Wine. Now we can move on...

Andi Healey

Web Manager

Light bodied red wine

The skin of a red grape is what gives a red wine both its colour and tannins. Light-bodied red wines are made from grape varieties with thinner and/or lighter skins than those grapes that make a fuller-bodied red. For this reason, lighter bodied red wines will be both lighter in colour and will contain less tannins. These wines also tend to have less alcohol which will lead to a more watery and light feel in the mouth, as opposed to a thicker, heavier feel that a fuller bodied wine might have. Light bodied red wines tend to be more delicate and elegant in aroma and flavour. Their berry flavours tend towards the red fruits and are often fresh and light. This fresh and light quality allows for more of the flowery aromas and earthy tones and spices to come through. This range of sweet and savoury flavours make this variety easily enjoyed with lighter dishes such as fish or vegetables, but also stand up to the more robust flavours of game.

PINOT NOIR (Pee-noh Nwahr)

To characterise "Pinot Noir" is to stereotype Pinot Noir. When you describe a Pinot, you describe just that Pinot, not all Pinots . Its characteristics are so dramatically different from region to region, winery to winery and year to year, that you have to look at more than just the grape variety. Its components are so subtle and delicate that, when it's at its best, the layers could be endless.

Pinot Noir is a red wine grape variety originating from Burgundy, France, where it was first cultivated by Monks in the 1st century. Today, it is one of the most highly prized wines in the world, setting the benchmark for light red wines and fetching high prices at auctions and restaurants alike.

Pinot is high in acidity, low in alcohol and generally lower in tannin, although some methods of fermenting use the whole bunch of grapes, including the stems, which can add more tannin. The flavour profile can vary greatly depending on the vintage and region from where it’s grown. For example, in Burgundy, Pinot Noir is usually herbaceous and light, whereas Australian varieties tend to have sweeter fruit notes of blueberry and even blackberry.

In blending, Pinot Noir is an important component of Champagne, but other than Champagne is not blended as often as other grapes. It fetches far more and is far more popular among wine drinkers as purely Pinot.

Pinot Noir wines are best enjoyed from a Riedel Pinot Noir / Burgundy Glass.

Riedel Vinum New World Pinot Noir (Pair) - Stemware

Riedel Vinum New World Pinot Noir (Pair)

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Riedel Veritas Pinot Noir (Old World) Glasses (Pair) -

Riedel Veritas Pinot Noir (Old World) Glasses (Pair)

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ZINFANDEL (ZIN-fun-dell)

Want a fresh, fruity and easy to drink red? Try the light bodied Zinfandel

The light bodied Zinfandels are the more abundantly produced varietals. They are fresher, forward fruitier, easier to drink and with less tannins than its heavier counterparts.

Zinfandel is popular in Californian blends, most popularly including the Cabernet Franc-Zinfandel combination or Cabernet Sauvignon-Zinfandel combination. The rich jammy elements and spice of the Zinfandel give the blend great first impressions and the Cabernets finish the good impressions off by providing backbone and framework as well as providing the herbal notes. .

CHIANTI (key-AHN-tee)

The most iconic wine of Italy, Chianti is a red blend variety from the region Chianti, situated in central Tuscany, and made blending a large amount of Sangiovese red grapes with small amounts of white and/or red grapes that are sourced locally.

For years, Chianti was known as the basket-bottle wine served on a red and white checked tablecloth at restaurants that came to symbolise Italy as a producer of cheap wine. But today, Chianti ranks among some of the best wines in the world.

Strong and bold with common flavours of cherry, plum, strawberry, spice, almonds, tobacco, vanilla and coffee, the high acidity in the wine makes it a great match for everyday Italian food, including pasta and pizza. When purchasing Chianti, look for a vintage that is as young as possible, usually two or three years old, as it doesn't age particularly well.

Both Chianti and Zinfandel are best enjoyed from a Riedel Riesling / Zinfandel Glass.

Riedel Veritas Riesling / Zinfandel Glasses (Pair) -

Riedel Veritas Riesling / Zinfandel Glasses (Pair)

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Riedel O Sauvignon Blanc / Riesling / Zinfandel Glasses

Riedel O Sauvignon Blanc / Riesling / Zinfandel Glasses (Pair)

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PINOTAGE (Pee-noh Tahj)

It may be a gamble with Pinotage but how many wines have been described as tasting like bananas?

Pinotage is a personal favourite but has a history of producing low quality wine where, at its worst, it can be far too high in acidity and tannins. But whilst, historically, there have been these far less desirable products coming out of South Africa, there have also been examples of this grape variety at its best, described as elegant, balanced, fully developed fruit flavours and long lasting in finish.

The outcome of flavour and aroma is, in part, affected by pruning. It has been shown that looser, wilder growing vines will produce a fruitier and fuller wine, while a strictly pruned vine will produce deeper, more austere flavours with a stronger acidic structure. In a more general sense, if Pinotage wine has good quality to it, it is described as more rustic, taking on earthy notes with smoky berries and an underlying flavour, often described as banana!   


Zweigelt is like an up and coming, natural actor with depth and character. It can play an array of parts, it can perform consistently, it just doesn't have the business connections yet.

A relatively new grape variety, Zweigelt wines are light and fresh in character. Its colour is a violet-red and it gives off floral aromas of violets. It's lower acids and soft tannins allow its more subtle floral, spice, earth and mineral character to thrive. Most often the fruit aroma and flavour tones centre on cherry and raspberry. Its a wine with spice, sometimes cinnamon, sometimes pepper. Because of its low acid and tannin content, a Zweigelt wine does not age well and should be consumed when younger and fresh.

Zweigelt is popular on its own and in blends. It can usually be seen blended with St. Laurent, Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot creating blends with depth and body, making Zweigelt less juicy and more complex.

Pinotage and Zweigelt wines are best enjoyed from a Riedel Syrah / Shiraz Glass.  

Riedel Performance Syrah/Shiraz (Pair) - Stemware

Riedel Performance Syrah/Shiraz (Pair)

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Riedel Extreme Syrah / Shiraz Glasses (Pair) - Stemware

Riedel Extreme Syrah / Shiraz Glasses (Pair)

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RIOJA (Ree-OH-ha)

Berries, nuts, roses and vanilla. Just picture the combination.

Rioja is a wine region of Spain known for producing blended wines that may be marketed under the regional name. The region uses most notably the Tempranillo grape variety, as well as Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mauelo. These grape varieties are typically blended with a higher percentage of Tempranillo, followed by a medium percentage of Garnacha and smaller percentage of Mazuelo and/or Graciano. The Tempranillo adds much of the character and ageability, the Garnacha adding both body and alcohol content, the Mazuelo adding spice like flavours and Graciano inputting aromas.

Flavours for a red Rioja tend to be described as fresh blackberries, strawberries and cherries with nuttiness, floral roses and oak infused vanilla.

Rioja wines are best enjoyed from a Riedel Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Bordeaux Glass.   


Want quality Pinot Noir? Turn to Burgundy

Burgundy is a famous wine region that produces Pinot Noir reds. There is some classification to the Burgundy wine quality. A regional wine is surpassed by a village wine which is surpassed by a Premier Cru which is surpassed by a Grand Cru. Regional Wines can contain grapes from anywhere within the Burgundy region and tend to have a fresh, light quality. These wines may be labelled as “Bourgogne Rouge". Village wines are named after the town that the grapes are strictly from. These wines tend to be quite similar to regional wines but perhaps slightly more complex. Premier Cru wines are those from vineyards recognised for being more intense, whilst Grand Cru wines tend to come from vineyards that produce grapes capable of producing bold, powerful and complex wines.   

So there you go, in a nutshell, Light red wines generally have a lower alcohol content (less than 12.5 percent). They also have less tannins than medium- or full-bodied wines.

1 comment

  • What glass would you recommend for drinking Gamay please. I’m sure I bought some wide bowl glasses once but can’t find any listed specifically for gamay?

    Andrew MacPherson

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