1. How to make red wine
When harvested, the red grapes are brought into the cellar. After sorting the grapes, different options are chosen by the winemaker : either destemming the grapes, meaning separating the grume from the stem, or vinifying in whole bunch.
Then comes the vatting, an essential part defining the character of the wine.
The must goes into the tank : generally, stainless steal, wooden cask, barrels, or concrete. Time of vatting lasts from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on the terroir and the options taken by the winemaker. It's during that time that the alcoholic fermentation goes on, thanks to the natural yeasts located in the pulp or to additionnal (artificial) yeasts. Temperature is key to the good progress of the fermentation.
During this vatting period, the tannic elements of the must and the pigments in the grape skin will give the color to the juice thanks to the maceratio. Multiple operations will guide and control this maceration, impacting the future personality of the wine.
The vatting is ended by the racking of the wine. The juice is collected by a simple running off, it is called " free run juice". The solid elements still in the tank, named "pomace", are either distilled to produce brandy or pressed to get the "press-juice", more tannic, that could be blended with the free-run juice, depending on the winemaker's will.
The cleared wine is then transfered to other tanks to undergo malolactic fermentation, chemical process transforming malic acid into lactic acid, stabilizing the beverage.
The wine is then aged in the cellar. The maturing is a period of time when the cleared and stabilized wine will undergo a certain amount of operations to confirm its quality and to maintain its specificity : aging in barrels in a cellar or a storeroom, topping-up, racking... Blending is also a very important moment in the wine process. When allowed/required by an appellation, several grapes can be blended to become a Cru. The blend can happen after the maturing or before the aging in oak.
The last step is the bottling, which allow the wine amateur to continue the aging in its own wine cellar.
2. The grapes for red wine
There are several grape varieties to produce red wine, some of them are reknown in their appellation. Cabernet Sauvignon is widely used in Bordeaux, especially for Fronsac, Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, and in the Loire Valley for Chinon and Bourgueil. Merlot is also very much used in Bordeaux, mostly in Pomerol, Saint-Emilion and Graves. Cabernet Sauvignon is mostly used in the Medoc. Grenache Noir is often included in the blend of the wines from the South of France : Roussillon, Languedoc and Southern Rhône Valley. Gamay is the only varietal allowed for the production of red Beaujolais and Pinot Noir is the main varietal for the red Burgundy wines. Of course, it is just a short list of all the red grapes. In addition, there are Syrah, Malbec, Cinsault, Folle Noire, Mondeuse... Some varietals are more specifically used in other countries, like Barbera and Sangiovese in Italy, Tempranillo in Iberian Peninsula or Zinfandel in the California.
3. Regions of red wine
Every French wine region produces red wine. Consequently, one cannot summarize a region by the colour of its production. Some AOCs produce exclusively red wines, like Pommard, Volnay or Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy, Margaux, Pomerol or Saint-Emilion in Bordeaux, Côte-Rotie in the Rhône Valley, Cahors and Madiran in the South-West of France, or Saumur-Champigny in the Loire Valley. These appellations are only examples and does not prejudge of the quality of the red wines produced in other regions where white and red wines are made.
4. Some famous red wines
Numerous estates have created fame around a terroir, and vice versa. In Bordeaux, Pétrus could be the best example. Famous for its quality and enjoyed by the upper-class around the world, its fame is even more surprising that there is no Pétrus castle, just a cellar with very high standards of production. So high that when a vintage does not meet these standards, no wines come out of the tanks. Other legendary crus are sharing the fame of Château Pétrus : Château Haut-Brion and Château Margaux for instance. Burgundy has also its own gem, the one of Romanée-Conti, a monopoly named after the same appellation and Grand Cru of Vosne-Romanée. Thus, the "climats" count as much as the producers for the fame of Burgundy wines : La Tâche, Richebourg, Grand Echezeaux...
5. Food and red wine pairing
The art of food and wine pairing cannot be contained in a few lines, but a few basic ground rules can provide a solid foundation. First, wine and food from the same region often marry well. For instance, a famous Bresse chicken will go quite nicely with a red wine from the nearby regions of Beaujolais or Burgundy. A goat cheese from Provence may be served with a red wine from the same area. Unfortunately, this rule is not universal, so a few further guidelines are necessary. Tannic reds are best with red meat and certain cheeses, which make the wine seem softer, but they should not be served with spicy dishes. Fruity reds go well with white meat and charcuterie. The full-bodied reds of Southwest France, Provence, and the Rhône Valley, as well as Barolos from Italy, are a good match for slightly sweet foods but crush more refined dishes. Of course, experience and personal taste should also be considered.