Q: I am not a wine drinker by nature, but I have been told to have a glass in the evening for health's sake. It is to be a red wine, of course. I find most wines to be bitter...
Q: I am not a wine drinker by nature, but I have been told to have a glass in the evening for health’s sake. It is to be a red wine, of course. I find most wines to be bitter, so I was wondering if you could point me to something kind of sweet to help me get it down until a taste is acquired.
A: I am assuming that your medical adviser has suggested you drink red wine for the antioxidant properties that red wine tannins have been found to contain.
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Unfortunately, these tannins may also be the source of the bitterness that you taste. Some people are particularly sensitive to these flavors and experience them as unpleasantly bitter. I do have some ideas for you to try, but you will have to experiment a bit until you find a type of wine that tastes right to you.
One quick experiment is to drink all of your red wines with food, and season that food with lemon juice and salt. It doesn’t have to be red meat for this to work. A halibut steak or a piece of grilled chicken or a simple salad seasoned with salt and lemon will tend to make the red wine taste sweeter, smoother and less bitter.
Another possible option is to seek out a sweet red wine. There are quite a few late-harvest zinfandels in the market that might fit the bill. These are wines whose grapes have been left to ripen a bit longer, and have not been fermented to complete dryness. They have some natural residual sugar that might make them more palatable to you.
Your wine seller may have some other suggestions as well.
Paul Gregutt answers questions weekly in the Wine section. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org