Choosing a red wine list for Ramada hotels

Towards the end of last year, one of the fun jobs I had was working with the Ramada hotel chain to produce a red wine list. The idea was to recognize the international presence of Ramada across the many countries it works in, through a special red wine list (red is the brand colour of Ramada). It was titled Say Hello To Red Wine.

The way we approached the list was to select wines solely from those countries where Ramada has a presence, and also to ensure the list reflected this national spread as much as possible. Because Ramada isn’t present in some of the major traditional wine-producing nations, this also gave the selection an adventurous, eclectic feel, with wines from some emerging countries included.

The wines of one of the red wine lists

The list is a short one, of just six wines. Because of the difficulty in sourcing the same wines across so many different countries, I chose six styles of red wine styles, and then listed half a dozen potential wines in each of these style groups, to make sourcing easier for the participating hotels. Price was also a consideration: I wanted wines that were very good quality, but they had to be available at a price where they’d actually sell from the list. Fortunately, the wine world is such a big, diverse and interesting place that this is possible.

Coincidentally, the list also tied in with my book ‘I taste red’

Ramada Red Wine List

The wine list is ordered by style: the idea is that the specific lists would have 6 reds, one from each of these style groups. Because of the vastly complicated, fragmented nature of wine production, I realize that it will be impossible to source these specific wines across all countries. So I have supplied more general guidance to help hotels source something suitable for each slot.

These were the style groups I came up with:

  • Style 1 Pinot Noir
    This is the most ethereal, pretty, and beguiling of all red grape varieties. Once you have succumbed to the charms of Pinot Noir, there’s no going back. Hailing originally from the Burgundy region of France, it is now successfully grown in New Zealand, California, Oregon, Chile, Australia and South Africa. Pinot Noir is lighter in body and colour than many red wines, and good ones have beautiful floral perfume and bright cherry and raspberry fruit. It’s hard to get right, but when it’s good, it’s amazing.
  • Style 2 Lighter Reds
    While some people love big, burly red wines, there’s a new trend to lighter-style reds that emphasis perfume, finesse and delicacy. They also work well with food, because they generally have less tannin and higher acidity. The classic lighter-style red is Beaujolais, which is made from the Gamay grape, but there are many on the market now as this is a popular style.
  • Style 3 Big reds
    Sometimes we want a big, lush, fruity, delicious red wine. Something that delivers pleasure and power in equal measure. Step forward Argentine Malbec, of Australian Shiraz, or Californian Cabernet. Wines that aren’t aiming at sophistication or elegance, but which are just out to deliver pleasure.
  • Style 4 Fruity reds
    Countries like Portugal, Spain, Greece and Turkey now make some of the best value reds of all, and when they make them in a young style without too much influence from oak barrels, they capture the warmth of the sun with beautiful direct fruit.
  • Style 5 Warm Spicy Reds
    These are wines with lovely sweet fruit, but also intriguing, exotic spicy complexity. Hailing from warm climates, they’re the wines to turn to when you are faced with bold, spicy dishes, where the complexity in the wine enables it to take on the strong flavours with ease.
  • Style 6 Complex Oak-aged Wines
    This is where we turn when we want something a bit special. Wines that have complexity that comes with age, and also through long ageing in oak barrels. Rioja Reservas and Gran Reservas from Spain are the epitome of this style, because they are typically released when they are ready to drink, after appropriate ageing in the cellar (although we couldn’t include these because Ramada isn’t present in Spain).

Initially, Fifteen hotels participated in the program, and I led a small group of press to one of them, in Milan. There we spent a weekend looking around Milan, visiting one of the wineries who were on the list (Guerrieri Rizzardi, whose Bardolino featured), and of course trying the six wines from the list over dinner at the hotel.

In Milan

Tasting at Guerrieri Rizzardi

This was the first time I’ve been involved in wine list creation, and I enjoyed it a lot.

[I was paid by Ramada to create this wine list, hence this is a sponsored post.]

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