7 Red Wines for White-Wine Drinkers

Easy-drinking reds even light-wine enthusiasts will love.

Red or white? It’s a common dilemma often solved by the type of food it’s paired with. Food-pairing notwithstanding, red definitely gets more attention—after all, it’s been hailed as the go-to elixir for its many health benefits (such as cardiovascular health, protection against certain cancers, and even the strengthening of tooth enamel). But what if you’re a white-wine drinker who’s not into the heavier alcohol content and richer taste characteristic of most reds? We say, give it another go, as not all varietals are big, brawny, and oaky. Many, in fact, are quite light, don’t pair well with steak or pasta, and are surprisingly dry and fruity. Here, some suggestions that just might convince dedicated white-wine drinkers to slide over to the other side.

Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano 2009
at Arrosto in Port Chester

Why it Works for White-Wine Drinkers: A sweet red cherry taste, with a touch of mint, defines this medium-bodied Tuscan vintage, allowing for a polished fruity flavor with a little acidity. Arrosto owner Godfrey Polistina credits the wine’s enjoyable tang to the combination of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Canaiolo grapes, which gives it a certain elegance and complexity, making it an ideal substitution for those more used to quaffing Rieslings and Chardonnays. And, just like white, it goes well with fish and seafood. 

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Sample: $11/glass; 25 S Regent St, Port Chester (914) 939-7200; arrostorestaurant.com

Joseph Carr Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 
at Char Restaurant in Greenwich, CT 

Why it Works for White-Wine Drinkers: It’s a medium-bodied, very approachable Cabernet full of dark cherry and ripe plum flavors, with aromas of pepper, fig, clove, and anise. The wine is Bordeaux-style in approach and composition, meaning the grapes are blended; in this case, from Napa Valley vineyards in Oakville, Stag’s Leap, and Rutherford. The combination approach makes it juicy and minerally, with vibrant berry flavors set against a light frame. The fact that all reds here are served at 63°F satisfies the “cool” so many white-wine aficionados are used to, albeit with a darker, richer character. 

Sample: $15/glass; 2 S Water St, Greenwich, CT (203) 900-1100; charct.com

Guillot-Broux Macon-Cruzille Rouge 2012
at Ernie’s Wine Bar + EATS in Bronxville

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Why it Works for White-Wine Drinkers: Some of the challenges white-wine drinkers face in the transition to red—aside from the taste—include the fact that it’s too rich, it’s more difficult to drink without food, it stains teeth, and it’s more likely to provoke a headache or hangover (reds tend to have higher ABV). So says Owner Philip Hedger, who admits some of these reasons are valid, some psychological, and some imagined, which is why he recommends Guillot-Broux, an elegant and light red produced in small quantities in the southern tip of Burgundy. The trick lies in the fastidious, organic winemaking (including minimal added sulphur), no oak, and the grape: Gamay. The result is a pure, fruity, clean, and fascinating wine with virtually no additives. Hedger claims: “It’s a red wine masquerading as a white which is refreshing to drink solo.”

Sample: $12/glass; 7 Pondfield Rd, Bronxville (914) 652-7859; ernieswinebar.com

Fiorini Becco Rosso Lambrusco di Castelvetro 2012
at Fortina in Armonk 

Why it Works for White-Wine Drinkers: This slightly fizzy red wine, served chilled, features notes of plum and dark cherry, all while maintaining a balanced acidity. Bar Manager Coby Blount says it’s a far cry from the sickeningly sweet white and rosé Lambruscos of the ’70s and ’80s. Instead, this off-dry, flirty little number—which pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s lip-smacking pizzas—is crisp and refreshing, with delicate bubbles that brighten the entire experience. 

Sample: $10/glass; 17 Maple Ave, Armonk (914) 273-0900; fortinapizza.com

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Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti 2011

 at Mima Vinoteca in Irvington

Why It Works for White-Wine Drinkers: It’s vibrant and light-bodied like a white, and pairs well with fish or chicken (as opposed to steak or spaghetti). Tinged with hints of ripe plum, blackberry, and strawberry, it’s about the juicy fruits found in the Asti region of Italy. According to Owner John Leggio, it’s very similar to a Pinot Noir, but with a little more elegance and structure.

Sample: $9/glass ($5/half-glass); 63 Main St, Irvington (914) 591-1300; mimarestaurant.com

Bodegas Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2010
at Sala on Hudson in Croton-on-Hudson 

Why it Works for White-Wine Drinkers: This Spanish charmer is pleasantly smooth with an intense floral nose of dark berries. “Thanks to the monastrell grape, this wine offers very fresh and youthful flavors of plum and the tannins and acidity are surprisingly soft, making it a nice match for those looking to expand their palette into the world of red,” says Manager/Bartender Shahla Jannetta.

Sample: $11/glass; 44 Maple St, Croton-on-Hudson (914) 862-4100; salaonhudson.com

Luigi Bosca Malbec 2010 

at The Iron Shaker in
White Plains 

Why It Works for White-Wine Drinkers: This wine, which comes from the Luján de Cuyo wine region in Argentina, is something Goldilocks would approve: not too bold and not too light. Bartender Steven Kastrati classifies it as a mild- or moderate-bodied vintage that can be combined with almost any kind of cuisine. It’s ideal for those who like their wine a tad sweeter with ripe cherry and plum aromas and notes of mocha and blackberries.

Sample: $14/glass; 49 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains (914) 358-9291; theironshaker.com

Jeanne Muchnick (jeannemuchnick.com) is an equal-opportunity drinker who likes reds as much as whites, rosés as much as the bubbly stuff.

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