Best Red Wine to Drink Without Food? 6 Easy Options


The best red wine to drink without food will be lighter in tannins, alcohol, and body. Look for red wines like bright styles of Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Nouveau and Gamay, lighter Merlot wines, and Dolcetto.

What Is the Best Red Wine to Drink Without Food?

Here’s a list of the best red wines to drink without food:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Inexpensive red Burgundy
  • Gamay
  • Beaujolais Nouveau
  • Lighter styles of Grenache
  • Dolcetto

Best Red Wine to Drink Without Food: Pick Low Tannin Reds

best red wine to drink without food

The first thing to look for when trying to find a red wine you can enjoy without food is a low tannin red. Wine tannins come from the seeds, skins, and stems of the grapes and give red wines that drying sensation in your mouth. Some grapes are naturally lower in tannins, like Pinot Noir and Gamay, other grapes are naturally higher in tannins, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Baga.

The reason you want a lighter tannin red wine is that food helps cleanse your palate from red wine tannins. The molecules in your food bind with the wine’s tannin, lifting them away as you eat. If you don’t have any food to enjoy while you sip, then you’ll get a grippy build-up of unpleasant tannins in your mouth if you’re drinking a high-tannin red wine.

Best Red Wine to Drink Without Food: Pick Lower Alcohol Reds

best red wine to drink without food - stags leap wine label
This is a Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. It’s 14.3% ABV. I know it’s a high alcohol, full-bodied red, not the best red wine to drink without food.

Lower alcohol red wines mean that you won’t get as drunk as quickly, especially if you’re not eating food to help slow down the absorption of alcohol.

Most wines are around 12%-15% alcohol by volume (ABV). Look for red wines under 13% ABV.

Like tannin, some red wines are naturally higher in alcohol than others. The level of alcohol depends on grape ripeness. Warmer growing regions will ripen grapes more, meaning higher alcohol wines. Look for red wines from cooler regions, like the Loire Valley or coastal regions.

Best Red Wine to Drink Without Food: Pick Lighter Body Reds

Light-bodied red wines do better without food. Full-bodied red wines do better with food. A wine’s body is the weight of the wine in your mouth. Full-bodied red wines can seem cloying and overpowering if you’re trying to drink them on their own. Stay away full bodied red wines like:

Personal Note: Many of my friends like Big Red Wines and will open high-alcohol, full bodied red wines to enjoy on their own. I can’t drink these without food and find them overpowering. But, as with all things in wine, you do you and if you enjoy these powerhouse red wines, then by all means go for it!

Helpful Tip: Look for nouveau style red wines. These wines go through quick winemaking processes designed to keep them light and fruity. Minimum time on the skins, means they’ll be lighter tannin and usually have a lighter body overall. Most of the time nouveau style wines use Gamay grapes, but they can use other grapes, too. Nouveau is a fantastic label clue if you’re looking for a good red wine to drink without food.

Final Thoughts – Best Red Wine to Drink Without Food

Remember, drink what you love. But, if you’re looking for a red wine that works without food, then look for low tannin, lower alcohol, lighter-bodied red wines that won’t overpower you while sipping.

Wines like Pinot Noir, juicy Gamay or Beaujolais, fresh styles of Grenache, and the cheery Dolcetto are all great options.

Avoid high-alcohol, full-bodied red wines. Just stay away from Bordeaux.

Thirsty for More?

Check out this list of light red wines for more inspiration.

Here’s a list of finger foods for your next wine tasting.

I’m a big fan of hosting blind tasting nights to learn about wine. Here’s how to get started.

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