Is it still a wine’s duty to be red?

Red, white, rosé? They all suit me! But I can’t help nodding approvingly at the British enophile Harry Waugh’s famous joke: “It’s a wine’s duty to be red.”

Notes for you

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• For the holidays: Food and wine books you’ll like
• Today’s tasting report: Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Reserva

This affection may go all the way back to my earliest days in wine, when I learned to enjoy good, cheap Chianti at old-school Italian-American eateries before I was old enough to buy it.

Early visits to California wine country continued nudging me toward the complex flavors and food-friendly character of Napa’s and Sonoma’s Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.

And when I had my first chance to visit a wine region in Europe, naturally I headed straight for Tuscany, Chianti’s native land. And to this day, although I try to spread my affection around, a simple data analysis of my columns would clearly reveal a preference for red wines … and for wines from Italy and France, although that’s grist for a separate column.

Of course I haven’t been alone in this. Across the U.S. and around much of the world (white-wine growing regions possibly excepted), consumers have consistently told pollsters that they favor red wine. There are plenty of reasons for this choice:

  • Flavor: Red wines tend to be more complex and, well, interesting. As a wine-loving friend put it many years ago, “There’s more going on in them.”
  • Food-friendliness: This one is arguable, I know, especially if seafood or fish are on the table. But I find the range of reds works well with just about anything good to eat, from roast beef or game to a thoughtfully constructed plant-based feast.
  • Visual appeal: As I pointed out in a recent column, it’s no coincidence that the colors used to describe red wine are often likened to jewels like ruby and garnet. Red wine is pretty, and as gastronomes often say, we eat with our eyes first.
  • Health: Yes, this one is controversial, and just about everyone agrees that wine (and alcohol in general) can be destructive in excess. But in the moderate range of a glass or two per day, extensive research points toward the antioxidants in red wine having beneficial effects on heart health.

Case made? Well, maybe. There’s a lot to love about white wine, too, and rosé, not to mention Tawny Port and even the niche trend favoring orange wine. I’ve got a couple of excellent whites lined up for tasting; you’ll read about them soon.

Meanwhile, though, I was inspired to this morning’s reverie by an article in this morning’s Decanter magazine US Newsletter: A survey by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) revealed that white and rosé wines together now account for a larger share of world wine sales than red wines.

I don’t know about you, but I sure didn’t see that coming. “Global consumption of white wine and rosé has risen by 10% and 17% since 2000, respectively, according to the OIV,” Decanter reported. “Red wine has declined 15% from a peak in 2007.”

Image created by OpenAI's DALL-E

Take note that these trends, though steady, remain slow. The OIV data showed that white wine comprised 43% of global wine consumption in 2021, up just 3 percentage points from the start of the century; while red wine consumption stands at 47%, down from just over half two decades before. But red’s popularity dropping below half moves the combination of Team White and Team Rosé into first place.

Want to know more? Here’s the Decanter article in full, and here’s a link to the complete report from OIV: Focus OIV 023: Evolution of World Wine Production and Consumption by Colour.

Naturally, after thinking about all this I wanted a red wine, and this Chianti seemed right. Frescobaldi 2020 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Reserva is widely available at a fair price. I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

Today’s Tasting Report

Frescobaldi 2020 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Reserva ($14.99)

Frescobaldi 2020 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Reserva

Dark reddish-purple with a clear ruby edge, Frescobaldi 2020 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Reserva breathes appetizing scents of ripe black cherries and blackberries, with subtler earthy back notes of coffee and cedar. Mouth-filling and medium-bodied, black fruit flavors gain structure from tart acidity and soft but persistent tannic astringency. An excellent Riserva, it benefits from the nuances that wood aging imparts but does not succumb to them. 13.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: Shaw-Ross International Importers, Miramar, Fla. (Dec. 14, 2023)

FOOD MATCH: The importer suggests robust dishes like barbecued meat and beef stews, and aged cheeses, and advises pairing it with lamb. I’m just about always happy with pasta with Chianti, like our choice, an umami-rich roasted mushroom ragu over spaghetti.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s delightful now, so there’s no need to cellar it. However, the back label declares it a wine of “superb longevity.” I wouldn’t advise putting it away for your grandchildren to enjoy, but assuming proper temperature-controlled cellar conditions, I wouldn’t worry about holding it for five more years.

My local price undersold’s $18 average U.S. retail, but this fine Chianti is a good value even in the upper teens.

Here’s Frescobaldi’s Nipozzano page. Fair warning: Some browsers may have trouble with this page, and the seasonal background of stylized snowflakes drifting down the page can get annoying.

Check prices and find vendors for Frescobaldi 2020 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Reserva on

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read about Tuscany’s Chianti Rufina sub-region and browse dozens of the area’s wines.

Read about Castello Nipozzano and look for wines from its portfolio at this Wine-Searcher link.


Wine Focus December 2023
Benchmarks of Grenache

Our online Wine Focus topic for December 2023 is Benchmarks of Grenache. This easy-to-like red variety is one of the 13 permitted grapes in Southern Rhône blends, including the classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Grenache is probably best known for this historic role, but it’s also important in Spain, and gathering steam in California and other wine regions around the world.

As always, you are welcome to open a bottle, jot down a note, and bring your impressions and your questions to our WineLovers Discussion Group. Let’s talk about Grenache!


Find the wines you want

Explore Wine-Searcher is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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