Which red wine do I want to drink?
March 13, 2016 9:46 PM   Subscribe

I am a total wine droog and I want the red wine equivalent of: rich, chewy stout beer; dark, 80%+ chocolate; strong, smoky single malt; full-bodied pipe tobacco.

I know I enjoy the wine and am happy to drink the wine, and do have preferences - merlot for red, semillon sav blanc for white - and my palate is able to distinguish between "wine that I enjoy" and "wine that I do not enjoy", but outside of that I'm kinda like...uhhh.

I want to cut back on beer for a while (average 2 x 6-packs a week) but I don't want to stop drinking, so I thought I might get stuck into some tasty reds for a while.

My preferences for mouth-things tend more towards I guess "darker", "thicker" flavours: stouts, peaty whiskies, straight-tobacco snus, high-cocoa chocolate. I wondered if there was a red wine that is, basically, the universally-acknowledged equivalent of these delights?
posted by turbid dahlia to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Amarone is reliably dark rich and chewy since the grapes are partially dry before fermentation.

Of course you can also find cocoa-ish notes in cabernets, after all cocoa is tannic too, but I think you'd get a 100% hit rate with Amarone. By the way most Amarone is quite expensive but Trader Joe's has decent bottles of it at around $20.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:51 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'd check out syrah (also spelled shiraz) if I were you, and older cabernet sauvignons.
posted by town of cats at 9:51 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My tastes in the other categories you mention tend towards the same as yours, and I prefer Shiraz or Pinot Noir. Left to my own devices, generally Shiraz, but I can't find anyone else who will drink it with me, so Pinots are sometimes as strong and bitey, and other people won't be snobby about them at me.
posted by lollusc at 9:53 PM on March 13, 2016

Oh, and also the high-cocoa chocolate mention made me think that you might also enjoy a little bit of 20-year port once in a while. It's definitely not something you drink like beer, too much sugar, but a small glass of aged port after dinner hits the same spot as dark chocolate or a really intense stout for me.
posted by town of cats at 9:57 PM on March 13, 2016

Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon (from South Australia).
posted by travellingincognito at 10:27 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

give Côtes du Rhône a try
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:29 PM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you're looking for an accessible, simple, overwhelming, jammy wine, drink Australian Shiraz.
posted by My Dad at 10:43 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Cabernet sauvignons. On the labels look for: oaky, blackberries, black currants, black cherries, full-bodied.
posted by Beti at 10:44 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've had cab sauvs that fit that mode, decently-aged Cahors (Malbec in its original French incarnation), and old vine syrahs that also head in that direction (example). I've also had ones that don't, and are instead flaccid or one-dimensionally jammy. The ones that do aren't always old and expensive, but the ones that don't tend to be pretty cheap and sold very young. And there's the rub.

Based on your profile, you can probably get well-made old-vine shiraz and cab sauv at reasonable prices -- the glut persists! -- from familiar names like D'Arenberg or upstarts like Mollydooker, but cultivate your local wine shop, and ask about smaller producers that concentrate on the domestic market.

(I had Jim Barry's Armagh nearly 20 years ago, when it was... considerably cheaper than it is now. It was glorious and deep and complex.)
posted by holgate at 11:10 PM on March 13, 2016

A barossa Valley shiraz.
posted by wilful at 12:29 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I suspect that I have similar taste in red wine. The types that I almost always enjoy are Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Sangiovese.
posted by strangecargo at 12:33 AM on March 14, 2016

I like Argentinian malbecs for that smoky, peppery flavor. I haven't had a lot of luck finding them in Australia (Dan Murphy's selection may be your best bet) but they sort of hit that spot for me. I'm personally finding Aussie shirazes a bit too fruity lately.
posted by olinerd at 2:00 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Syrah, yes. Another option is Grenache or, if at all possible, the gloriously knock-your-socks-off Sardinian Grenache derivative Cannonau.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:29 AM on March 14, 2016

Try Zinfandels! (Not white zinfandel). I like them best of the reds because they're full and rich but a little less dry/tanniny than a Cabernet Sauvignon.
posted by something something at 2:46 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Barossa or WA shiraz
posted by pompomtom at 3:02 AM on March 14, 2016

Yeah, you want a Barossa Shiraz. If you can get it, Kalleske's Pirathon is very good.
posted by gingerest at 4:09 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

One data point: California zinfandel can hold its own vs bong rips in a way that more delicate reds can't.

(A lot of wine guides don't mention this pairing for some reason.)
posted by ryanrs at 4:36 AM on March 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

I see one passing mention of Malbecs, but I think it is worth emphasizing: Argentinian and Chilean Malbecs, to my mind, have the leather-chair-drawing-room dankness you desire, and often taste well above their price point. Drink them!
posted by jamaal at 5:04 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had half an answer typed out, then looked and saw you're in Australia. I don't know what prices or availability look like re: American and European imports, so I'll assume they both work the same way Australian/European imports work in the US; your mileage may vary.

What's your price range? At the ~$15-ish level, your best bet is (weirdly enough) imports. Cotes-du-Rhone are wildly variable in quality, but if you find a producer who tends toward riper styles, that will probably scratch the itch. At $20-30, entry-level amarone is a good suggestion, and there are a wide variety of shiraz examples that will probably hit what you're looking for. Ask your local wine store for brand suggestions, though I've done well by John DuVal's labels.
posted by Mayor West at 6:19 AM on March 14, 2016

Spend some time with De Long's Varietals Chart. Printed copies are for sale lots of places, but even though you will lose some of the tasting notes in an image this size, you can still see the varietal names. It sounds like you'd want to focus on the bottom right area of reds, which are more acidic and more heavyweight. If you want a budget way to get started, try some of the Italian wines in that section, like Nero D'Avola, Primitivo, and Aglianico.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:08 AM on March 14, 2016

There are some great suggestions here for you, but my mind when right to port and sherry when I read your description of comparisons. Sometimes port feels like heavy wine syrup in my mouth, and it feels great.

Outside the wine range, there's also the amaro family of spirits to consider. Some of these are deliciously heavy, and great after dinner when your palette's already been banged up by flavors--a sip of amaro and your tongue and nose will perk right back up.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:57 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

The wine snob term of art for the taste you are describing is "jammy", also "heavy" and maybe "sweet" (but not sugar! dry wine, 0% sugar.) Consider wines higher in alcohol, like 14.5% instead of 13%.

Your profile says you're in Australia. That is the land of big sticky shiraz, you have hundreds of options. I'm not qualified to really recommend one.

For American wines you want Zinfandels. Red, of course. Specific suggestions are Renwood and Ravenswood.

French and Italian wines are generally more subtle. Some southern French red can be like you're looking for, like Languedoc. Another fun European option is Hungarian Egri Bikavér, but availability is limited.

Some South African wines can be pretty big and jammy. I haven't seen many South American wines made in that style.
posted by Nelson at 10:21 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh man this is a ton of stuff to try and look into. Going to be a while before I can select a best, but thanks for all the expert input so far!
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:48 PM on March 14, 2016

Some southern French red can be like you're looking for, like Languedoc.

Yep, deep south -- Minervois, Corbières, Banyuls -- and just over the border into northeastern [Spanish] Catalonia. That's where Syrah is often combined with Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre into tannic gamey blends, or Grenache for ones with more berry fruit.
posted by holgate at 1:41 PM on March 14, 2016

Well, I'd say you could try a number of red wines from the south-west of France. Off the top of my head : Iroulegy, Bergerac, Corbières, Faugères, Gaillac (avoid "primeur"), and of course Madiran, which is said to contribute to a healthy diet and might be matching your tastes.
posted by nicolin at 4:39 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Though Gaillac and other wines made roughly between Toulouse and Rodez (Fronton, Marcillac) aren't as commonly exported to the New World (or outside France, tbh) because they're often a bit rustic and a hard sell. More's the pity.
posted by holgate at 6:26 PM on March 14, 2016

Some South African wines can be pretty big and jammy.

Yep! Try the Diemersfontein Pinotage. I bought a few bottles years ago (2010?) from the bottle shop/bar under the Westin in the city square in Melbourne (which I believe has or will be closed at some point). Not sure where you might track it down but if you do, it's big and loud and chocolatey.

Edit: the Diermersfontein site suggests this site
posted by prettypretty at 5:33 PM on March 15, 2016

Response by poster: Ok so, I've been trying a bunch of stuff - many of the recommendations here - over the last couple of weeks. The closest to what I'm after (so far) has been a South Australian "winemaker's red blend" called Wildling, which is really a bit of everything, and is delicious. That said, I wouldn't have known to try it without the advice found here about profiles and terms and names, so really, you are all winners in my book!

That said I still need to try an amarone...they are just very expensive so I haven't pulled the trigger just yet.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:19 PM on March 28, 2016

Because of the intensity of the taste you are best pairing bitter chocolate with heavy, strong red wines with dry tannins to allow the flavor to implode on your tongue. Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Ruby Ports
posted by Lazar89 at 11:21 AM on August 2, 2016

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