I can’t remember how often I’ve heard, “I don”t like red wine; it”s too dry”, or “I don”t like red wine because I don”t like hot wine”. Let”s look at the second one first. In the United States we drink red wine too warm and we drink white wine too cold. Weird but true. This gives you your first hint on how to like red wine.
Red wine should not be served at US room temperature; especially not at commercial kitchen temperature. Room temperature in Europe is usually somewhat cooler that it is in the US. A lot of wineries recommend that red wine be served at or near cellar temperature, which is about 60 degrees or less. Some cellars are cooler, but you can expect a wine at 55 or 60 to warm up in the glass at the table. I like red wine at 65 – 70 degrees. If it is served at 80 degrees you”ll need an ice bucket to get it where it needs to be. Unless a restaurant is very knowledgeable with wine you won”t see it at 65. You”ll be lucky to see it at 75. You can keep from serving red wine too warm at home by putting it in the fridge for a half hour or so. If you’re going to decant it (and you should – more on this later), put the decanter in the fridge after the wine has been decanted. If you’re going to learn to like red wine, you may have to take matters into your own hands.
As to the “red wine is too dry” business, in fact it isn’t any drier than white wine. What most people are experiencing is tannin. That”s the stuff that puckers your mouth with some red wines. Tannin comes from the grape skins – so does color and flavor – and it is necessary for some red wine to age properly. But if there’s an excess of tannin, it can feel like your mouth is being turned inside out. Back in the 70’s and 80’s some California wineries seemed like they were running tannin contests. In 1977 I had a monster Zin that actually turned my entire head inside out. Okay, not really, but it felt like it. Fortunately most California wineries have gotten away from that foolishness.
If this is a problem for you, all you have to do is drink red wines that don’t have a lot of tannin. Pinot Noir comes to mind. Some of them have a little tannin, but Pinot Noir is not usually a big wine, so the tannin will not be overpowering. Also try Beaujolais, a wine from France. Actually, get Beaujolais Villages; it is better and doesn’t cost a whole lot more. Look for wines made from the Grenache grape. In France, Grenache is used in the southern Rhone area. Look for Cotes du Rhone. Learn to like red wine by learning which reds are less powerful and tannic. Back to decanting. You have probably heard about letting a red wine breathe. When a red wine is first opened it can be either a little harsh or closed. Closed means that the fruit is hidden so there isn’t much taste. Pouring the wine into a decanter exposes the wine to oxygen, which begins to open its flavors up. It can also get rid of the initial harshness. Most red wine will get better with at least a half hour in a decanter. This is not wine nerd stuff, it’s the best way to learn to like red wine. The right red wine at the right temperature will open a whole new world of flavor and enjoyment for you.