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Red Wines

Red wine expresses the creative soul of civilisation and mankind's enological wisdom. Its origins are lost in the mists of time, in ancient Mesopotamia, and its history is closely linked to the culture of countries with a strong wine vocation, such as Italy and France. On Callmewine you will find a wide selection of red wines, from the important and full-bodied to the lighter and more easy to drink. Prestigious wines such as the great red wines from Piedmont, Tuscany or Veneto, or the French wines produced in Burgundy or Bordeaux, as well as lesser known but surprising wines. Wines that express the characteristics of a territory, that are the spokesman of a style, a tradition and a human passion that goes beyond time.

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Red wine expresses the creative soul of civilisation and mankind's enological wisdom. Its origins are lost in the mists of time, in ancient Mesopotamia, and its history is closely linked to the culture of countries with a strong wine vocation, such as Italy and France. On Callmewine you will find a wide selection of red wines, from the important and full-bodied to the lighter and more easy to drink. Prestigious wines such as the great red wines from Piedmont, Tuscany or Veneto, or the French wines produced in Burgundy or Bordeaux, as well as lesser known but surprising wines. Wines that express the characteristics of a territory, that are the spokesman of a style, a tradition and a human passion that goes beyond time.

The Production of Red Wine

Red wine is only made from red grapes, through a production process called red wine vinification.

One of the first stages in the production of a red wine is the choice of the harvest period, a decisive and fundamental moment. Depending on the type of wine to be produced, the right balance must be found between the sugars present in the grapes, which increase as they ripen, and the acidity, which tends to decrease as the harvest continues. As a rule, red wines tend to have lower acidity than white wines or sparkling wines, so the grapes are harvested when they are fully ripe or even overripe.

The harvested grapes are taken to the cellar where they are usually destemmed, i.e. the stalks are removed, before being pressed to obtain the juice. It is necessary that this practice is carried out in a delicate way (soft crushing): therefore the traditional press tends to be replaced by modern de-stemming machines, equipped with rollers covered in rubber or with directional cones. Less often the grapes are crushed whole, i.e. without having been destemmed. In this case, the wine produced will be characterised by a high level of tannin, which can be detected in the form of astringency, because the woody part of the bunch will have yielded its tannins to the must.

The pressing of the grapes produces a greenish grape juice called must. In red wine making, fermentation of the must involves contact with the marc, i.e. the grape skins and seeds. This maceration causes the extraction of anthocyanins from the skins, which are responsible for the red colouring of the must, and other polyphenols, which enrich it with aroma, fragrance and structure. The grape seeds, on the other hand, have the function of releasing the tannins. Generally, maceration lasts about 10-15 days, but some producers choose to extend it up to 4 weeks: the longer the contact between must and marc, the greater the quantity of tannins present in the wine and the intensity of the colour.

In the meantime, thanks to the action of the yeasts present on the grape skins or added, alcoholic fermentation is triggered: the sugars are transformed into ethyl alcohol thanks to the action of the yeasts which, combining with the acids present in the grapes, give rise to esters, secondary products of the chemical reaction, but responsible for the wine's aromatic qualities. An increase in temperature favours this natural process but, in order not to damage the yeasts and compromise the quality of the wine, the temperature must be kept between 25 and 30°C. These processes can take place in stainless steel, fibreglass or wooden vats.

During the fermentation phase, the marc forms a very compact layer on the surface, known as the marc cap, which prevents contact with the liquid part, with the risk of developing acetic acid. To overcome this problem, one of the many techniques used to stir the must and break up the cap can be used: punching down consists of mechanical pressure applied by means of a piston to make the cap sink into the must; pumping over is a method of tapping the must from the bottom of the tanks through an external pipe, so that it can be put back on top of the cap; delestage involves the total separation of the liquid part of the must from the cap and its subsequent re-insertion, after the solid parts have been compressed to the bottom of the tank by gravity; finally, the submerged cap technique uses a perforated diaphragm to keep the cap of grape marc below the level of the liquid.

After alcoholic fermentation, the winemaking process for red wines includes, with very few exceptions, malolactic fermentation, i.e. the transformation of malic acid into lactic acid. This is an essential stage in the vinification of red wines because it increases their smoothness and eases their sharpness and hardness.

The must has now turned into wine, but the wine is turbid, with skins, fermentation lees and spent yeast in suspension. It is therefore necessary to initiate racking, i.e. removing the residues, which can be carried out either by filtration or by static decantation. The latter method, which is less invasive, consists of lowering the temperature in the tanks so that the substances to be removed settle on the bottom.

Once the wine has been "cleaned", it is ready for maturation, which can take place in steel, cement tanks, large casks or small barrels. The time spent maturing may depend on the requirements of the production regulations, the type of wine and the producer's choice. Once the maturation phase is over, bottling takes place: the wine begins its ageing in the bottle and, after another possible rest in the cellar, is put on the market.



The Best Italian Red Wines

The most famous Italian red wines come from two red grape varieties that are widespread on the peninsula: Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.

Nebbiolo is the symbolic vine of Piedmont, the oldest and most famous in the region, grown mainly in the Langhe and Roero areas, where it produces great red wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco, but also Carema and Roero Rosso. Further north, between the provinces of Novara, Vercelli and Biella, Nebbiolo grapes produce wines that are just as robust, although less well-known, such as: Boca, Gattinara, Ghemme, Bramaterra and Lessona.

The Nebbiolo grape is also widespread outside Piedmont, in Valtellina, where it is called Chiavennasca and used for the production of important red wines such as Sforzato.

The Sangiovese grape is widespread in Tuscany, Romagna and all of central Italy. It is the basis of important red wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Morellino di Scansano, Carmignano, Nobile di Montepulciano and Sangiovese di Romagna.

Among the most widespread Italian vines, Barbera should also be mentioned. It is widespread not only in Piedmont, where it gives rise to various types and denominations, but also in Lombardy, especially in Oltrepò Pavese, in Emilia and in southern Italy.

In Trentino Alto Adige, the production of red wine is centred on two typical vines, Teroldego and Lagrein.

In Veneto, excellent red wines are produced in the Valpolicella area, where Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and other grapes are used to make Valpolicella, Recioto and above all Amarone.

The true enological symbol of Emilia is Lambrusco, a light, sparkling red wine obtained from the vine of the same name, an excellent pairing for cured meats, sausages and typical Emilian dishes.

Montepulciano is the most widespread red grape variety in Marche and Abruzzo, where rich and expressive red wines are produced, while in Apulia Primitivo and Negroamaro dominate.

In Irpinia, Aglianico grapes are used to produce Taurasi, a robust and intense red wine nicknamed "the Barolo of the south", while in Basilicata it gives rise to an equally structured wine such as Aglianico del Vulture.

The islands also offer many types of red wine, the most popular being Nero d'Avola in Sicily and Cannonau and Carignano in Sardinia. On the slopes of the Etna, however, the vine called Nerello Mascalese is becoming more and more important, from which Etna Rosso is made.

Alongside these indigenous varieties, international varieties are also cultivated in Italy, which have found favourable conditions in the various Italian territories: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon. The combination of Merlot with other red grape varieties gives rise to Bolgheri Rosso and some of the great Tuscan red wines known throughout the world as Super Tuscan.

These are just a few examples that testify to the enormous richness and vastness of Italy's enological heritage. In our country there are hundreds of native red grape varieties and many types of red wines, each with its own characteristics and capable of expressing the peculiarities of the territory of origin.