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Red wine dates back at least to the ancient Egyptians, who were depicted on wall paintings engaged in wine production -- harvesting and stomping wine grapes in an age-old tradition.

From Egypt, the wine making industry made its way to the ancient Babylonians, and then to Greece who lent their wine making skills to the Romans.

After Rome fell, monasteries in the Dark Ages were the only places where the ancient practices survived. Throughout the era, medieval red wine (taste be damned) played a part in the Catholic Mass and was used for medicinal purposes as an antiseptic. It was only later that religious orders such as the Benedictines in France and elsewhere began to improve upon and surpass the ancients in expert winemaking.

The case for red wine

medieval red grape harvesting
Stomping red wine grapes in
14th century medieval France.

So why the centuries-long fascination with reds? Besides their bright, ruby-red color and complex personality, red wines are generally more festive and social than chilled white wine, which can be sipped quietly in a corner. The warmer reds more often call for food, and therefore a crowd.

Depending on their tannin content, (the same mouth-drying ingredient found in tea) red wines can range from heavy and dark to light and refreshing.

Reds are also the wine of choice for wine collectors (they age better than whites) and in more practical terms just seem to pair better with a wide variety of cuisines ranging from French to Indian food.

Did we also mention that recent research even suggests a connection between red wine and health as a powerful antioxidant and cancer fighter?

Today, red wine is made from about 40 different grape varieties across the globe.

Major red wine grapes

Cabernet Sauvignon - Thick skinned grape with lots of tannin, this grape is most identified with the Bordeaux region of France and the California Napa Valley.

Merlot - Usually lending a taste of black cherries, these grapes produce a reliable, "easy drinking" wine and often blended with high tannic wines to soften them.

Sangiovese - The most planted red variety in Italy, and the major grape of Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. High in tannin, with an intense color.

Pinot Noir - Often associated with the Burgundy region and the most notoriously hard to grow, these grapes impart flavors and aromas of cherries, strawberries and damp earth.

Syrah - Rich, dark, and spicy wine with lots of tannin. Also known as Shiraz in Australia.

Tempranillo - Dark, almost black in color, this is Spain's major red wine grape with tastes of strawberries and plums.

Zinfandel - Due to Its high sugar content grapes may vary depending on when they are picked, producing wines that may range from light and fruity to big and spicy

Around the Web, discover more about full-bodied, oaky, fruity and flowery red wines (along with the lightweight rosés) with detailed information on where they come from, how to identify them, pair food with them, cook with them, and ultimately enjoy them...

also see related articles -> Wine with Turkey | Wine with Lamb

Red Wine & Barbecue | How to Pick a Good Wine

More information about red wine around the Web:

Red Wine Information & Basics - Check out Wine Enthusiast Magazine's short course on red varietals ranging from Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel, with tasting notes and information on the grapes that go into making them.

Best Red Wine for Cooking - Bon Appetit guide to how to buy it and cook with it, plus related recipes for tomato sauce, beef stew, leg of lamb and more.

How to Remove Red Wine Stains - Simple formulas for getting out those pesky red wine stains including the old standby, club soda, plus more solutions you might not have thought of ....

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