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Ask a Sommelier: Gateway Reds for White Wine Drinkers

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If you like white wine, try these reds. [Photograph: Shutterstock]

Do you know someone who always orders white wine, never red? For those looking for refreshing and bright wine that doesn't feel heavy, red wine can be a turnoff. But while a big, oaky Cabernet Sauvignon might not be up their alley, there are plenty of red wines that these folks might like. We asked wine pros from around the country for their advice on the best red wines for white wine drinkers.

Here are the 'gateway reds' they recommend.

"Lighter, thin-skinned grapes such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Sangiovese are the way to go when transitioning from whites into reds. Thinner-skinned grapes that have less tannin are not as likely to be as bitter and dry which are common issues for mostly white wine drinkers."—Alpana Singh (The Boarding House)

"I recommend wines that drink well with a light chill, soft tannins, and are slightly lighter in body. Soft tannins are extremely important as strong tannins are not a component of most white wines. Serving wine at proper temperature is very important as well. A lot of people drink their red wines too hot anyway. Many reds show better at cellar temperature and some even cooler than that. Try these bright, happy reds and serve at approximately 60°F: Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Frappato, Schiava, Grignolino."—June Rodil (Qui)

"The easy answer to this question is always Pinot Noir: with its fresh fruit and lower tannic structure (that mouth-drying sensation), it's kind of like white wine in red wine's clothing. For some more off-the-beaten-track options, look for Blaufränkisch or Sankt Laurent from Austria; both are light-to-medium-bodied, with pretty red and black berried fruit, plus some delicious dried florals, herbal and spice characteristics. Rosi Schuster and Anita and Hans Nittnaus both make excellent examples. California Grenache can be surprisingly fresh and juicy as well; the Birichino Besson Vineyard Vieilles Vignes bottling is like an explosion of strawberries in the glass, and the 2012 Farmers Jane Field Red is a juicy, boisterous blend of Grenache and Carignan with some sweet cinnamon and nutmeg atop the sappy strawberry and raspberry."—Mia Van De Water (North End Grill)

"Gateway reds need to be very light, fruity, 'poundable' and have little or no tannin. Gamay is the main variety that comes to mind when taking the step out of the world of whites. They have soft plush fruit and great freshness which can easily replace white wine. Some of my favorite Gamay wines on the market are 2012 RPM Gamay Noir from El Dorado, Sunier Fleurie 2012 Beaujolais, and Herve Souhaut La Souteronne 2011 from the Rhone."—Eric Railsback (Les Marchands)

"Frappato, Cinsault, and Gamay—all with a slight chill—should do the trick."—Josiah Baldivino (Michael Mina and Bay Grape)

"You can ease your way into it with a lighter, fresh mountainous red from Trentino Alto-Adige. Vernatsch from Baron Widmann is almost like a heartier rosé, fresh, very drinkable and has beautiful crisp acidity that pairs with a whole spectrum of dishes. Or Elizabetta Foradori's Lagrein, darker and juicier but not heavy at all. Or you could head south and add a little southern sunshine warmth from the wines of Sicily. Arianna Occhipinti's Frappato, immediately comes to mind with it's sundried alpine strawberry-ness or a juicy 20140302abatucci.jpgCerasuolo di Vittoria is also a fun option, the weight is like an unoaked Pinot Noir, while the acidity is still there, they tend to be a little softer edged and without any harsh tannins."—Ceri Smith (Biondivino and Tosca)

"Personally I am not a big red wine person. Call me crazy, but I like wine to be refreshing! But there are several red wines that I love to drink, too. Pinot Noir from Burgundy has a tension, an acidity, and balanced tannins to still be thirst-quenching while offering a depth of flavor that a white most likely would not be able to achieve. If I had to choose one red wine, though, for the white-wine-drinking camp it would have to be the very pretty, quite light Comte Abatucci's Rouge Frais Imperial from Corsica."—Caleb Ganzer (Eleven Madison Park)

"I would say start with rosé (I love rosé). Perhaps one that is on the fuller, heavier side like the Cantalupo Il Mimo Nebbiolo Rosé. Then you could move into light bodied Gamays or red wines that may be served slightly chilled. You may want to steer towards softer varieties, such as Pinot Noir. If you like oak-heavy white wines, you may want to look for the same in a red."—Jessica Brown (The John Dory and The Breslin)

"Reds from the Valle D'Aosta are great, as they have very low alcohol and high acidity, as do those from the Canary Islands , here you can get the type of minerality you might find in a white wine."—Joe Campanale (dell'anima, L'Artusi, Anfora, and L'Apicio)

"Stick to a fresher, aromatic, low-tannin style of red wine when trying to introduce a white wine drinker to the world of red. Gamay tends to be low-tannin, with some juicy red-fruited brightness that white wine drinkers seem to appreciate. Other low-tannin reds for white wine drinkers to try are Jura reds (such as Poulsard and Trousseau). But there is also nothing like a tasty rosé to resolve the preferences of a mixed group!"—Lulu McAllister (Nopa)

"Rosé is an obvious go-between, but Frappato, Barbera, Gamay Noir, California Pinot and Aussie Grenache can also be pleasant without demanding much of the drinker. Get Celler Comunica's Montsant 'La Comedia' or Occhipinti's 'Tami' Frappato from Sicily. I also love Bow + Arrow's Gamay Nouveau from the Willamette Valley. Cheap, fruity Spanish wines always win new converts. It's hard to go wrong with an 8-dollar bottle of Garnacha del Fuego or Las Rocas Garnacha from Calatayud."—Jackson Rohrbaugh (Aragona)

"The gateway—the red wine I offer first to white wine drinkers—is Schiava Nera and Schiava Grigia from the Alto Adige of Italy. It's a light, high acid, tart fruit wine."—Liz Vilardi (Belly, The Blue Room, Central Bottle)

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