Wine styles

Guide to smooth red wines

These wines are classic reds; the vinous equivalent of settling back into a wingback chair in a library next to a roaring fire, listening to Ray Charles on a gently crackling record player – super smooth and deliciously mellow.

I like... smooth mellow red wines

Popular Grape Types

Where you'll find it: Basically everywhere – most famously in 'Bordeaux blends' of cabernet sauvignon & merlot, plus all over the new world.

Flavours: Plum, blackberry and cherry.

Style: Soft, round, red and black-fruited and easy-drinking.

Food: Vegetable tagine, cottage pie and easy everyday comfort food.

Drink it here: For a midweek box-set marathon when you don't want to think too hard about what you're drinking, (although you can get stunning premium styles too).

View our range of merlots

Where you'll find it: Spain (garnacha), France (especially the Rhône), Australia.

Flavours: Strawberry, herbs, spice and blackcurrant.

Style: Vibrant, full-bodied but fresh and often with an intriguing herbaceous hit (fennel, thyme).

Food: Roasted vegetables with Feta cheese crumbled on top, slow-cooked lamb.

Drink it here: In the form of a rich, structured Châteauneuf-du-Pape with deeply savoury stews, or a boldly fruity new world style with barbecue food.

View our range of grenache

Where you'll find it: Northern Italy.

Flavours: Cherries, strawberries and earthy.

Style: Mouthwateringly fresh and fruity and light blend which includes the corvina grape – like a bowl of fresh, tart cherries.

Food: Stay Italian with tomatoey pasta and pizza.

Drink it here: For introducing to red-wine hating friends – this may just be mellow and fruity enough to convert them.

View our range of Valpolicellas

Where you'll find it: Chile.

Flavours: Blackberry, green bell pepper, black pepper and plum.

Style: Chile's flagship grape variety, this is a slightly wild but deliciously smooth red with lots of ripe black-fruit flavours and a hint of herbs.

Food: This can take mild spice in its stride so opt for tandoori chicken or Chile con Carne.

Drink it here: In Chile a whole barbecued cow (asado) would be the done thing, but maybe try barbequed veg or burgers in the back garden instead.

View our range of carmenère

Where you'll find it: Rioja (Spain).

Flavours: Sour cherry, vanilla and leather.

Style: A rich red-fruited blend, usually with vanilla and toast flavours from oak ageing. There are four styles of Rioja which range from young, unoaked fruity numbers (joven) to mature, oak-aged treasures (Gran Reserva).

Food: Lamb makes a gorgeous pairing with this seductive wine, or try a coconut and pumpkin curry or veg-based tapas.

Drink it here: Rioja always impresses, so put a bottle on the table for Sunday lunch or a birthday dinner.

View our range of Riojas

Where you'll find it: Tuscany, Italy.

Flavours: Red cherries, herbs, floral and leather.

Style: Most famous for its use in Chianti, sangiovese can make fragranced, supple cherry-scented wines. Top Chianti can also gain more power and leathery complexity with age.

Food: Tomato is difficult to pair with wine, but Chianti is brilliant here. Try pizza or meatballs.

Drink it here: Try it in the evening with a plate of cold cuts. Want to explore different expressions of sangiovese? Get adventurous by discovering versions from all over Northern Italy to discover how well this versatile grape reflects its terroir. Also try an Aussie version for a totally different take.

View our range of Chiantis

What makes a red wine smooth and mellow?

Oak ageing

While not all the styles above will have seen oak, fermenting and/or maturing in oak barrels do give a really smooth, vanilla-like, toasty smoothness to red wines if done with subtlety. French oak tends to give more understated toasty cedar and brioche notes, while American oak barrels give more flamboyant vanilla and coconut flavours.

If you see the term 'new' oak in a wine note this often means the oaky flavours will be more pronounced.

Give a few different styles a try and see what style of oaking (if any) you prefer.


Tannins come from the skin and seeds of stalks, giving grip and structure on the palate (imagine the sensation of a sip of over-stewed tea on your gums).

For smooth, mellow wines, these tannins need to be well integrated and supple, so winemakers may choose grapes which have naturally softer tannins, and using barrel fermentation allows small amounts of oxygen into the wine which helps to mellow the tannins for a velvety feel.

Food Matching

Tomato-based sauces: The sweet-and-sour richness of slow-cooked tomato sauces needs juicy tangy fruit to balance it out. The ripe black and red fruit flavours of these wines do just that, with enough refreshing acidity to sing with the zinginess of the tomatoes.

Aromatic spice: The fragrant spice of a mild curry will love the bold fruit of these wines. Don't go too hot though!

Rosie Allen

The Society's Brand Marketing Manager

Rosie Allen

Rosie joined the team in 2016 and oversees all our content including 1874 magazine and Discovery pages.

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