Ripe, Smooth, Medium-Bodied Red Wines

Ripe, smooth, medium-bodied red wines are the largest category of red wines. Think luscious Chilean Merlots, through to classic grand crus Classés of St-Émilion. Both made from the Merlot grape, both lead to deliciously ripe, smooth red wines that you'd instantly recognise as 'medium-bodied'.

Price brackets start at the everyday level and rise rapidly up to some of the most expensive, and special wines in the world in this style. Their ability to match whatever you're eating, and the mood of the occasion, is unrivalled. Once upon a time, many of these wines would've been considered full-bodied, but with the advent of big, bold red wines from afar, they've been overshadowed by their New World cousins.

Look out for a darker colour, more structure (instantly recognisable once you take a sip), and tell-tale liquorice and spicy flavours. Oak barrels come into play in a big way with ripe, smooth, medium-bodied red wines which tends to lend a savoury edge to their flavour.

At the cheaper end of the smooth, ripe red wine spectrum, you can expect a fresh, fruity set of aromas, without that much complexity. The accent is on the fruit flavours, but with a balanced palate, along with texture and discreet tannins. At the more expensive end of the scale, you'll be getting added complexity, finesse (that wine trade term that means 'class in a glass' - you'll know when you encounter it), together with some subtlety and a fleshy body and perfect balance. Sounds attractive? But it's a difficult act for the winemaker to pull off, and you'll have to move into double digits to ever taste it.

Top 8 Ripe, Smooth, Medium-Bodied Red Wines by Region & Grape Variety

Bordeaux: for some red wine drinkers, there's nothing beyond this treasured French wine region. Home to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and to a lesser degree, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. To find the ripe, smooth red wines from this endlessly fascinating region, look for St-Émilion, Pomerol, Côtes de Bourg and Blaye.

Languedoc: wines from this sprawling French wine region will give you some of the best value smooth, ripe red wines around. Fitou, Corbières, St-Chinian, Minervois - the sub-regions are well worth exploring, and you'll never be disappointed.

Sangiovese: Tuscany is the homeland of Sangiovese, sometimes (mistakinginly) translated as the 'blood of Jove'. Chianti is the star here, and its days of straw-covered bottles (called 'fiasco') is long gone. Today it's a powerhouse of some of the very best Italian red wines, and you could almost spend as long exploring it as you could Bordeaux.

Montepulciano: both a region and a grape variety, it's capable of giving you ripe, smooth medium-bodied red wine that is superb with staple Italian fayre (pasta and pizza), but equally capable of pairing with almost anything you could think of. Wine rack essential.

Nero d'Avola, Primitivo, Negroamaro: a bevvy of excellent southern Italian grape varieties that can make, in the right hands, excellent smooth, ripe red wines. You'll need to step up a notch to get the full effect, mind you. Cheaper examples tend to veer into the lighter end of the red wine universe.

Rioja: a region, not a wine, Spain's most famous wine-producing area gives the world some of its most memorable ripe, medium-bodied red wines. Ageing and the impact of oak is key here. They even have a legal framework to define it, from Joven to Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. Each has its own charms, each needs to be enthusiastically tasted to work them out. It's no chore, trust us. Look for Tempranillo as the main grape variety; it's leagues above all other pretenders.

Portugal: not just a holiday destination and where Port comes from. The same grape varieties as the world's most famous fortified wine makes some top table wines too. Touriga Nacional often plays lead here, and at Rude Wines we've one of the UK's best selections of ripe, smooth red wines. In fact, our best-selling red wine, the Alta Corte, comes from this sunny corner of Iberia.

Carmenère: this fantastic red grape variety used to be pretty widespread in Bordeaux, but there it's susceptible to disease so fell from grace. Not so in Chile, where it was once mistaken for Merlot, and it's there you should look for exceptional smooth red wines that will have you coming back for more.

If you think of a light-bodied red wine as a string quartet, here, with the ripe, smooth medium-bodied bunch, we're moving into a bigger set of players. Oak ageing adds to character, smoothness, and flavour, but only when used carefully. Winemakers get to play in the winery, and those who are gifted and in tune with their fruit reap the full dividends. Price, of course, begins to play an increasingly critical factor too. Beware cheap imitations here. At Rude Wines, we've always stood by the yardstick that we'd never sell it if we weren't prepared to drink it ourselves. So you're always assured of quality with our ripe, smooth red wines.

What is a ripe, smooth, medium-bodied red wine?

Body is the crucial factor in deciding this style of red wine. The fresh, light-bodied red wines tend to rely solely upon their single grape variety to express their liveliness. Once we're into medium-bodied red wine territory, the winemaker's involvement comes into play, as does the quality of the grapes. They can choose to emphasise tannins (which give a wine a longer life, letting it slowly develop into something very special with age), or suppress them. How much the wine costs will give you a very good idea of the care and attention lavished upon your smooth, medium-bodied red wine.

Remember, although we can group wines together by style as we see them, your taste is the final decider. Being such a broad category, the ripe, smooth red wine bracket deserves a good exploration so you can make up your own mind about what fits your palate. This is wine after all, and your enjoyment is the main goal.

11 of the Best Medium-Bodied, Ripe, Smooth Red Wines

Montes Classic Merlot, Colchagua Valley: this is no wishy-washy Chilean Merlot. The Montes Midas touch is evident in this wonderfully ripe, smooth red wine.

Château Trébiac Rouge, Graves: Merlot leads, and that's a given for a medium-bodied red wine experience. All the balance of a top circus act.

Château Vincens Cuvée Prestige, Cahors: the ancestral home of Malbec shows the savoury, bright character of the variety. South West France shows why this region was once more highly rated than Bordeaux here in England.

Paul Jaboulet Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu: Grenache as the star makes for medium rather than full-bodied red wine. Simply a jewel to enjoy, and marvel at its breathtaking complexity. Sunday roast limelight stealer.

Philip Shaw The Conductor Merlot, Orange: Orange the little-known Australian wine region, not the citrus fruit. As smooth and ripe a red wine as you'll likely to encounter from Down Under.

Il Faggio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: the wine you could drink with anything? We've won over legions of fans with this discovery, still proudly imported directly from its Italian homeland. Magnifico.

Domaine Lauriga Merlot, Languedoc: we had to pick one stellar wine from this budget-beating area of France, and we chose this beauty. Ripe and smooth red wine really doesn't begin to do it justice.

Casas del Bosque Winemaker's Selection Carménère, Rapel Valley: sounding every bit like an opera star, Carménère is the most seductive of red wines when it's made well. We don't think you'll be disappointed.

Saint-Cyr Réserve Carignan: there's a savoury edge to this Languedoc beauty that's sure to win over the most reserved of red wine drinkers. Even better, it's one of our permanently great value bottles.

Villa del Camino Rioja Reserva: the 'Reserva' bit is all about how long it's spent in oak. Here we think you're in for a treat, balancing ripe, fruity character with a vanilla and cedar element that makes for a bottle to remember (sharing's not obligatory).

Lirac Moulin des Chênes Famille Bréchet: the Rhône's full of wine treasures, none more so than this delightful discovery. The bigger names may steal the limelight, but Lirac has smooth red wine written all over it, for a fraction of the cost.
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