10 Red Wines Chosen By An Expert
10 Red Wines Chosen By An Expert

10 Red Wines Chosen By An Expert

Right now, few things feel cosier than sitting down with a good glass of red wine. If you’re a fan, then you’ll enjoy these tips and recommendations from Outpour founder Joanne Koukis.
By Harriet Russell

What Makes Red Wine So Appropriate For Cooler Weather? 

Light sparkling whites and rosés are fun and refreshing but red wines are like a warm hug. At this time of year, our meals also tend to get warmer and heavier, so you may want something richer to match the food you crave. Just bear in mind that red wines have a range of characteristics, and so they actually suit a range of food whether that’s spicy cuisine, aromatic dishes, sweet courses and even fish. That’s something people aren’t always aware of.

What Are Three Things You Look For In A Good Red Wine?

Intensity of flavour, no throat-stripping tannins and velvety smoothness. What we call the ‘body’ of a wine is made up of a combination of elements including alcohol, tannins, residual sugar and acidity. An example of a low body wine would be pinot noir; merlot is a medium body; and a full body is something like cabernet sauvignon.

Is There Any Truth To The Idea That Red Wine’s 'Heavier' And Might Give You More Of A Hangover? 

A bit. Red wine is perceived as heavier because more oak is often used in maturing reds than whites. The oak adds extra complexity. If you don’t like this, though, there are plenty of light unoaked reds to enjoy instead. There is a perception of heaviness also due to the tannins. Tannins are the astringent compound in the stems, skins and seeds of the grapes that give you that drying and grainy feeling in your mouth. Good tannin integration tastes great (oak and age help with that), bad tannin integration tastes rough. Recent scientific studies say that hangovers are slightly worse with red wine due to a compound called congener. But also keep in mind that red wine has healthy antioxidants such as polyphenol and anthocyanin (like in berries) and your worst culprits for a hangover are high ABV and additives – that’s why cheap wine hurts.

Red wine is perceived as HEAVIER because more OAK is often used in MATURING reds than whites. The oak adds extra COMPLEXITY. If you don’t like this, though, there are plenty of light UNOAKED reds to enjoy instead.

Do You Always Need To Let It 'Breathe'? 

Not really, just swirl it around in the glass once poured or keep the bottle open for an hour beforehand. There is a preconception that red wines should be decanted, but this could do more harm than good, especially if it exposes it to too much oxygen. It means the flavour profile can sometimes change beyond the intended taste. 

If You're A Bit Lost With A Restaurant Wine List, What Should People Look For?

Ordering wine should be like ordering dessert: a fun, kid-in-a-candy-shop moment. But too often the whole experience, whether you’re browsing online, in the supermarket or a restaurant, feels completely pressured. The label is confusing or the lingo the sommelier is using is baffling. You fear making the wrong choice. Or you worry about being judged for the things you like, or don’t. What should be an enjoyable experience leaves you feeling deflated.

For great value and brilliantly made reds, I’d always try something from Spain. The type of red you choose depends on several personal preferences, such as whether you like your red wine heavy or light. If you like light and fruity, go for the Beaujolais. If rich and full of flavour is more your thing, try a Spanish red from the south. 

What Kind Of Food Does Red Wine Go With?

A classic combination is mushroom and pinot noir. Pinot noir is light and earthy, so it’s a natural partner for mushroom aromas. Beans and Rioja is another failsafe – don’t knock it until you try it! Finally, I love a Shiraz with peppered meat, and some people say that burgers or red meat and Beaujolais are a thing. 

Does It Matter What Red Wine Is Served In? 

A lot of people will tell you to buy a specific red wine glass. My opinion is you definitely want to serve it in something that lets some air in to release the aromas. If the bottom of the glass is wider than the brim, it allows the aromatics of the wine to congregate closer together so you can get a better smell.

Finally, What’s The One Thing You Wish People Knew About Good Red Wine? 

Venture beyond France! People rightfully love Burgundy and Bordeaux wines but try a garnacha from Priorat in Spain, a primitivo from Puglia, a lagrein from Alto Adige in Italy or a xinomavro from Greece. So many countries produce exceptional red wine, so if you think red wine isn’t for you, it’s worth venturing beyond the classics to see if something else might work for you.


Tenute Guardasole ‘Pio Decimo’ Nebbiolo 2018, £30

Hailing from Italy, this wine is made from the same grape as Barolo by an amazing couple, Marco Bui and Annalisa Gri, on their family vineyards. Best served at room temperature, try it with braised or grilled red meat. This is also a great partner for pizza – think ’nduja, salami or classic pepperoni. Vegetarian? Try a mushroom risotto. Piedmont is the home of Arborio rice and truffles, and we like ours with strong cheese on top. 

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Domaine Parize Givry 1er Cru Grandes Vignes ‘Champ Nalot’ 2020, £24.99

We love French pinot noir and this is an exceptional one from Burgundy. Also, it’s premier cru so you can put it in the centre of the dinner table or take it to any dinner party. Again, serve it at room temperature and preferably with mushroom dishes. This might just be the most reasonably priced Burgundy I’ve ever tasted.

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David Traeger ‘Three Centuries’ Shiraz 2011, £21

Australia does amazing shiraz and this one outperforms in tastings against wines twice the price. David Traeger is a legend in Australian winemaking. He only makes three wines and this is one of them. We love this with pepper steak, but if you like your game, this is your wine. Or you could make like the Australians and pair it with any type of lamb. 

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Château Cambon Beaujolais 2020, £17

The queen of light reds, Beaujolais has had its ups and downs. Big in the 70s and 80s it then went completely out of fashion. It’s now made a comeback and I believe it should be here to stay. This one is made by a small organic French producer. I’ve tried (and liked) a lot of Beaujolais, but this one was just that bit tastier. It’s also natural. Serve it slightly chilled – it’s a good buffet or starter wine because it’s so soft. But the classic combinations are herbed roasted chicken and turkey. For the vegetarians, go with oeufs en cocotte and toasted bread. 

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Weingut Niklas OXS Südtiroler Lagrein 2018, £17

This light and moreish wine is from the South Tyrol, a part of Italy where both German and Italian are official languages. Lagrein is a true people pleaser and goes with so many foods. Also, it’s a bit cool because no one has usually heard of it. You can serve it slightly chilled or at room temperature – lagrein is slightly acidic, so it would be great with a margarita pizza. Traditionally it’s eaten with ham and tomatoes. 

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Fuentenarro Ribera del Duero 4 Meses, £12.50

A little heavier than rioja but still extremely smooth and drinkable, this could be the wine for you – especially if you love new world wines like malbec and shiraz, but are looking for something a little lighter and fresher. It tastes like a French Bordeaux. Ribera del Duero is one of Spain’s fine wine regions, and this bottle comes from lamb country so pair with roast lamb, lamb chops or sheep’s cheese. 

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Primitivo di Manduria Magnifico Rosso Fuoco 2019, £14.90

Rich and alcoholic but completely smooth, this is exactly what an Italian primitivo should be. Primitivo is the main grape of Puglia and also the same as Californian zinfandel – rich without being heavy. It has some depth but is still fruity with rich black fruit aromas. Enjoy it with mature cheeses, rich pasta dishes, ragu or grilled meat. Its ideal partner is orecchiette, a pasta local to Puglia, with a rich ragu sauce and loads of aged parmesan. Or go for mac and cheese with cheddar, if ragu sounds like too much work.

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Celler Cecilio Black Slate Gratallops 2017, £19.50

This is the garnacha grape from the Priorat region of Catalunya, which is considered home to some of the finest garnacha in the world. With this wine, you can’t go wrong with red meat or lamb. For the more adventurous, this also goes perfectly with peppered beef or chicken, and even a cheese plate. If in doubt, drink it like a local and pair with garrotxa or manchego. If you’re someone who enjoys red wine year-round, it works well with BBQs.

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Bodegas Viñátigos Negramoll 2018, £24.95

If you like your reds fruity, light, smooth and that little bit jammy but not sweet, this could become your new favourite bottle. Serve it slightly chilled or at room temperature – it’s beautiful on its own. However, there’s a penchant for pairing this with duck breast or hoisin duck pancakes. Wines from the Canaries are made from rare, indigenous grapes that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. They’re gaining popularity in the UK and Europe so get them now before they become totally unaffordable.

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Juniper Crossing Cabernet Merlot 2014, £15

Juniper Estate is a boutique winery that produces small quantities of excellent wines in Wilyarup, Margaret River – an established high-quality producing region in Western Australia famous for its great cabernet sauvignons. A classy cab sav with red and black fruit flavours, this wine uses many of the same grapes as a Bordeaux but it’s not an exact dupe. Still, it’s elegant enough to drink on its own and perfect for a cold night curled up on the sofa. Serve it with steak frites, venison, sausage and mash, lamb or vegetable stews. Then enjoy it with a chocolate-based dessert, like a dark chocolate ganache tart. 

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