A year ago, I finally replaced the stiff IKEA futon in my living room with my dream sofa from West Elm — one I had spent years saving up and planning for. The mid-century sofa quickly became my most beloved piece of furniture, but from the very beginning I was concerned its light grey fabric would attract accidents.
My biggest fear was that someone would drop a big saucy meatball or spill a giant glass of wine on it. So when I had people over, I made a rule that drinking red wine on the new couch wasn't allowed. I'd happily pour them any glass of white wine — and as much as they wanted — but wouldn't take the chance on red. I was too worried a friend would clumsily spill a glass, as sometimes happens, and my new sofa would be ruined.
Then, one night while I was eating dinner alone on the couch, I became the first one to spill my entire glass of red wine all over one of the seat cushions. I rushed to the kitchen and grabbed a dish towel and a small bottle of club soda from the fridge. I blotted away at the stain, dabbing and dabbing until — to my surprise — it had mostly faded.
I was lucky to have been drinking a glass of Chinon, a red wine that is light in color and low in tannins (the astringent compounds found in the skins of grapes). Tannins are what give red wines much of their flavor and color. Generally, the darker a wine is, the more tannin it has, and the stronger its ability to leave a lasting stain. Had I been drinking a big, bold red with gripping tannins such as a dark ruby Cabernet Sauvignon or a purply Malbec, I don't believe my sofa would have made the full recovery that it did.
The Best Red Wine to Drink While Eating on the Couch
From that day on I've made a deal with myself: If you're going to drink red wine on the couch, make sure it's a light red. Here are a few of my go-to options. Not only are they less likely to stain in the event of a spill, but they're also downright gulpable while you're binging shows on Netflix. Trust me.
1. Cabernet Franc
Meet the "other" cabernet: Cabernet Franc. These wines are nothing like the overly ripe California Cabernet Sauvignons you know. They're savory yet fresh, juicy and herbaceous. Look for ones from the cooler climate of France's Loire Valley, such as Bourgueil or Chinon, known for their aromas of graphite, green pepper, strawberry, and raspberry. If my light-colored couch can survive a cab franc spill, so can yours.
One of my personal favorites is Schiava, from Alto Adige in northern Italy. To me, Schiava is the red wine for rosé-lovers; it has a kind of bright, almost-pink red that has aromas of sweet cherries and raspberries. And it's perfect to drink alongside a meat and cheese plate for one.
This obscure Italian grape makes some of the most light-bodied reds I've had. Hold a glass up to the light and you'll most certainly be able to see through it. Grignolino grows in Italy's Piedmont region, home to better-known grapes like Barbera, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo, and is known for its delicate strawberry and spice notes, and bright acidity that makes it especially food-friendly.
4. Pinot Noir
Chances are, you already know about Pinot Noir, especially if you've seen the movie Sideways, which made the grape more popular than Merlot. It's a beloved grape among wine geeks, and makes wines packed with red fruits and gentle tannins. Pinot Noir is grown all over the world, but ones from Oregon are especially light-bodied, earthy, fragrant, and juicy.
5. Listán Negro
Widely planted in the Canary Islands, this grape makes light red wines full of soft tannins, spice, and red berry flavors. They're juicy and satisfying, and while a bottle of Listán Negro might be the most difficult to find on this list, it's worth seeking out.