Exploring 35 Red Wine Types: Essential Guide For Wine Lovers
There's a tremendous amount of variety when it comes to red wine. In this guide, I describe the types of red wine that you should try if you get the chance.
I cover everything from light-bodied through to full-bodied, with sweet and fortified reds thrown into the mix too. There's a red wine type for everyone and you'll hopefully find yours down below!
Light Bodied Reds
35. Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir vines are as delicate as the wines they produce, thriving in cooler climates like those of its homeland, Burgundy, France. Known for its bright, translucent ruby hue, Pinot Noir is a sight to behold.
Each sip of a well-crafted Pinot Noir reveals a symphony of flavors — ripe red fruits like cherries, strawberries, and raspberries, often woven with notes of clove, mushroom, and a whisper of earthy forest floor.
It's like walking into a fragrant summer garden, with layers of floral nuances and a touch of sweet spice.
Pinot Noir is a chameleon when it comes to food pairings. Its bright acidity and moderate tannins make it versatile enough to accompany a range of dishes, from salmon to roasted chicken, duck, or even a savory mushroom risotto.
Let's not forget the unique winemaking techniques, with some vintners opting for whole-cluster fermentation, lending an extra level of complexity and structure to the wine.
34. Gamay (Beaujolais)
Next, we venture into the heart of France's Beaujolais region with the Gamay grape. This varietal produces wines that are like a jovial gathering of friends — light, vibrant, and full of life. One look at its vibrant ruby color and you'll be intrigued.
Gamay wines are a cornucopia of juicy red fruit flavors. Think of biting into a fresh, ripe red cherry or a handful of wild strawberries. Its nose echoes this fruitiness, with floral hints adding to the enticing aroma.
You might even detect a hint of fresh banana or bubblegum, a characteristic often attributed to the carbonic maceration method commonly used in Beaujolais.
Pair a glass of Gamay with charcuterie, grilled chicken, or a robust salad and you've got a meal to remember. The wine's low tannins and bright acidity make it a flexible companion at the dinner table.
Let's take a trip to northern Italy, specifically the Alto Adige region, the birthplace of the Schiava grape. This red wine is like a beautiful sunset — light, airy, and filled with subtle nuances.
Schiava is light in color, often so much so that it can be mistaken for a rosé. Its flavor profile is all about subtlety, with gentle notes of red berries, almonds, and an intriguing hint of cotton candy.
Its aroma is equally enticing, with fragrant notes of rose petals and violets dancing with the fruitiness in a delightful ballet.
The light body and lower tannin content of Schiava make it a perfect partner for lighter fare — think seafood, mild cheeses, and light pasta dishes.
It's a testament to the winemaking traditions of Alto Adige, where the cool alpine climate and careful winemaking techniques produce a wine that's a joy to discover.
Crossing over to Austria, we find Zweigelt, the most widely grown red grape in the country. It's like a well-composed symphony — structured, harmonious, and full of expressive nuances.
Zweigelt wines are deep and inviting, often displaying a beautiful dark cherry color. The taste is a compelling blend of ripe red and black fruit flavors, with a delightful spiciness and a hint of fresh herbs. The aroma mirrors this, offering a bouquet of dark cherries and plums, often with a subtle hint of sweet spice.
A glass of Zweigelt pairs beautifully with hearty meat dishes, game, and strong cheeses making it a delightful experience to pair with food.
The winemaking process is meticulous involving seven days of mash fermentation in closed stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature, followed by a few days of maceration.
The wine is then gently pressed, undergoes malolactic fermentation, and matures in stainless steel tanks before spending time in large, used oak casks.
This careful crafting process lends Zweigelt its unique personality, making it a must-try for any red wine enthusiast.
Next, we visit the sun-drenched vineyards of Spain and the Rhône valley in France, where Grenache, or as the Spaniards call it, Garnacha, thrives. This grape variety is the life of the party - bold, spirited, and unabashedly expressive.
Grenache wines offer a warm, garnet-red invitation, concealing a kaleidoscope of flavors. Brace yourself for an avalanche of ripe red fruits - think strawberries, raspberries, and a hint of white pepper for a thrilling contrast.
On the nose, Grenache presents a captivating mix of fruit and spice, with a dash of herbaceous charm.
Paired with grilled meats, spicy cuisines, or hearty stews, Grenache is a confident accompaniment.
It's often fermented in large, neutral barrels that allow the wine's fruitiness to take center stage. A swirl of Grenache in the glass is like a dance in the warm Mediterranean sun.
This red wine variety is smooth, plush, and filled with an alluring depth of flavors. Originating from the Bordeaux region of France, Merlot has found a home in vineyards worldwide.
In your glass, Merlot presents itself with an attractive, deep ruby color. The taste is a lavish spread of plump black fruits - blackberries, cherries, and plums - often laced with notes of chocolate and a soft hint of earthiness.
Inhale deeply, and you'll catch an enticing aroma of dark fruits, mingled with vanilla and herbs, a nod to the oak aging often employed in its production.
Merlot is a gracious partner to a variety of foods, from grilled steaks to roasted vegetables and rich pasta dishes.
Its winemaking often involves oak aging, which imparts additional complexity and softens the wine's generous tannins.
29. Tempranillo (Rioja)
Next, we journey to the vibrant landscapes of Spain, the cradle of the Tempranillo grape. Tempranillo, especially from Rioja, is a traveler's tale in a glass - full of character, history, and a sense of place.
In the glass, Rioja's Tempranillo is a sight to behold, with its deep cherry-red color. On the palate, it spins a tale of tart cherries, dried figs, and a savory leather undertone that's unmistakably Spanish. On the nose, it offers a bouquet of plum and tomato leaf, with a whiff of sweet tobacco.
Pair a classic Rioja Tempranillo with Spanish tapas, lamb, or aged cheeses for an authentic culinary experience.
The winemaking tradition in Rioja often involves long aging in oak barrels, resulting in wines with remarkable complexity and a unique expression of terroir.
28. Sangiovese (Chianti)
The heart of Italy pulses with the lifeblood of Sangiovese, the predominant grape in the picturesque rolling hills of Chianti.
The wine, much like a Renaissance painting, captures the very essence of its terroir, serving as a testament to Italy's winemaking prowess.
A glass of Chianti, resplendent in its ruby-red glory, is a sensory treat. Each sip unveils a tapestry of tart cherry and ripe plum, woven with threads of earthy tobacco and tanned leather.
On the nose, it draws you in with its intoxicating blend of red fruit, underscored by subtle hints of dried herbs and spices.
Consider a plate of spaghetti Bolognese or a succulent osso buco and a bottle of Chianti, and you have an Italian match made in heaven.
The high acidity and robust tannins of this wine can stand up to rich, hearty dishes, making it a staple at any Italian dining table.
The winemaking techniques often involve meticulous aging in oak, which infuses the wine with a complex structure and allows the varietal characteristics of Sangiovese to shine through.
Truly, a glass of Chianti is like a journey through the Tuscan countryside, one that every wine lover should embark upon.
Let's turn our compass towards the sun-drenched vineyards of California, where the Zinfandel grape feels right at home.
Zinfandel is like the Golden State's vibrant beach culture captured in a bottle — bold, sunny, and unabashedly fun.
The deep, purplish hue of a glass of Zinfandel is reminiscent of a glorious Californian sunset. The flavors are bold and jammy, with blackberry, ripe cherry, and plum taking center stage, backed by a chorus of sweet tobacco, cinnamon, and sometimes even a hint of dark chocolate.
The bouquet is equally compelling, presenting a rich mélange of ripe fruits and sweet spices.
Pair a full-bodied Zinfandel with barbecue ribs, spicy sausages, or a hearty pizza, and the flavors will dance harmoniously on your palate.
This wine's robust structure and high alcohol content make it a perfect companion for bold, flavorful dishes.
Zinfandel winemaking can range from old-vine plantings that produce concentrated, complex wines to innovative techniques that highlight the grape's inherent fruitiness.
Regardless of the method, the result is a wine that embodies the spirit of California — lively, adventurous, and full of zest.
Journey with me now to the sun-soaked region of Abruzzo, Italy, where the Montepulciano grape thrives. This variety of red wine is much like the hearty, rustic cuisine of its homeland — robust, unpretentious, and deeply satisfying.
Montepulciano wines, with their rich, purplish hue, are a feast for the eyes. The palate is an exploration of dark fruits, think blackberries and plums, with a surprising twist of black pepper and a hint of bitter chocolate.
The aroma, rich and full, echoes these flavors and adds a touch of dried herbs for good measure.
A bottle of Montepulciano is a perfect match for the bold flavors of Italian cuisine. Think hearty pasta dishes, grilled meats, and sharp cheeses. Its full body, high tannins, and vibrant acidity stand up well to rich, robust dishes.
Winemakers often employ traditional techniques, including aging in oak barrels, to bring out the best in Montepulciano.
This is a wine that speaks of its place of origin, with every sip a testament to the sun-drenched hills of Abruzzo.
As we travel further into the wine regions of Italy, we find ourselves in Piedmont, home to the Barbera grape. This wine is like a spirited Italian folk dance — lively, expressive, and full of energy.
Barbera wines are known for their deep ruby color and flavors of ripe red cherries and blackberries, complemented by a natural acidity that adds a fresh, vibrant character. On the nose, expect enticing aromas of red fruits with a subtle undercurrent of vanilla and spices, especially if the wine has spent some time in oak.
Pair a glass of Barbera with hearty dishes like lasagna, grilled meats, or even a rich mushroom risotto. The high acidity and medium tannins of this wine make it a flexible pairing partner.
In terms of winemaking, Barbera often benefits from oak aging, which can add a layer of complexity and soften the grape's naturally high acidity. The result is a wine that is as versatile as it is delightful, much like the lively region from which it hails.
Remaining in Piedmont, we encounter Dolcetto, a grape that produces wines as charming and approachable as a warm Italian welcome. Dolcetto is the lighter side of Piedmont, a delightful counterpoint to its more tannic neighbors.
In the glass, Dolcetto presents a lovely purple-red color. The palate is a harmony of black cherry and blackberry, accented by notes of licorice and occasionally a hint of bitter almond. It greets your senses with an aromatic bouquet of black fruits, mingling with a subtle hint of earthiness.
Dolcetto pairs well with a wide range of foods, from pizza to pasta dishes, and even seafood. Its moderate tannins and bright acidity allow it to balance a variety of flavors, making it a versatile partner at the table.
The winemaking process for Dolcetto typically focuses on preserving the fresh fruit characteristics of the grape.
Stainless steel fermentation and limited oak aging allow the grape's vibrant fruit flavors to shine, resulting in a red wine that is delightfully easy-drinking and approachable.
23. Nebbiolo (Barolo, Barbaresco)
Our sojourn in Piedmont continues with Nebbiolo, the noble grape behind the esteemed Barolo and Barbaresco wines. These wines are like a timeless Italian sonnet — profound, expressive, and with an enduring elegance.
Nebbiolo wines are known for their light garnet color that belies the intensity within. The palate unravels layers of sour cherry, raspberry, and rose, accompanied by undertones of truffle, tar, and anise. The aroma is an enticing bouquet of red fruits and roses, underscored by earthy notes.
Pair a Barolo or Barbaresco with rich, hearty dishes like truffle risotto, braised meats, or strong, aged cheeses. These wines have the high acidity and formidable tannins necessary to stand up to robust flavors.
The winemaking process often involves extended aging in large oak casks, a practice that allows the powerful tannins of Nebbiolo to soften and integrate, resulting in wines of great complexity and longevity.
We leave Italy and head to France, where we find the Carignan grape, primarily in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Carignan is the unsung hero of French wines — rugged, resilient, and with a quiet charm.
Carignan wines display a deep ruby color. The palate reveals a medley of dark fruits like plum and blackberry, accompanied by notes of pepper, anise, and sometimes a touch of game. The aroma is robust, with dark fruits, spices, and a hint of earthiness.
Pair a Carignan with robust dishes such as cassoulet, game meats, or strong cheeses. Its full body, high acidity, and firm tannins make it an excellent companion to hearty cuisine.
Winemaking techniques often involve old-vine Carignan, which can produce wines of exceptional depth and character. The use of oak aging can also add a layer of complexity and softness to the wine.
Continuing our exploration in France, we encounter Cinsault, a grape that brings a breath of Mediterranean air to any glass. Cinsault is the light, fragrant melody in the symphony of Rhône blends.
Cinsault wines are typically light in color, with a palate that offers a delightful blend of red fruits like strawberry and cherry, with a hint of spiciness. The aroma is fragrant and floral, with red fruit undertones.
Cinsault pairs wonderfully with a wide variety of dishes, from grilled fish to Mediterranean vegetable dishes. Its light body and bright acidity make it an adaptable wine at the table.
In terms of winemaking, Cinsault often benefits from a light touch to preserve its fresh, fruit-forward character.
It's frequently used in blends to add perfume and softness, but it can also produce delightful varietal wines, especially when sourced from old vines.
Our final stop brings us to the verdant vineyards of northwestern Spain, where the Mencia grape finds its home. Mencia is like a flamenco dancer — vibrant, expressive, and with a sense of enchanting mystery.
Mencia wines are deeply colored, expressing concentrated and complex flavors on the palate. Expect a dance of vibrant blackberry and cherry notes, framed by earthy undertones. The aroma mirrors this medley, with dark fruit notes leading the way.
Mencia wines pair wonderfully with a variety of dishes. Consider charcuterie, roasted lamb, or a traditional Spanish paella. The wine's medium acidity, good structure, and fruity profile allow it to complement a wide array of flavors.
When it comes to winemaking, Mencia grapes often see the inclusion of stems in the fermentation process, adding herbal and balsamic nuances for a more complex wine.
It's important to note that Mencia wines are not widely recognized for their aging potential, which means they are best enjoyed while still relatively young. However, they still boast a richness of flavor that is quite impressive.
The Mencia grape is a primary variety with a short cycle, which means the entire process from budding to ripening occurs within a relatively short time frame. This doesn't leave much room for the development of secondary or tertiary flavors, so the end result is a wine that is very much a product of its primary characteristics.
Despite this, Mencia wines often exhibit a striking complexity. This is largely due to the use of stems in the winemaking process, which imparts herbal and balsamic nuances that add layers of flavor and depth to the wine.
This technique is a testament to the skill and creativity of winemakers, who are able to coax a surprising amount of complexity out of a grape that is not typically associated with long aging periods.
19. Cabernet Sauvignon
Known for its bold, full-bodied types of red wine, this varietal is loved by wine enthusiasts around the world.
Cabernet Sauvignon wines are characterized by their strong notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, pencil shavings, herbs, and baking spices. They also possess moderate to high acidity and high tannins.
The specific flavor profile can vary significantly depending on the region where the grapes are grown and the winemaking techniques employed.
In Bordeaux, France, the birthplace of Cabernet Sauvignon, the wines are known for their savory style and notes of blackcurrant, tobacco leaf, pencil shavings, anise, and plum. The wines are typically Cabernet-dominant blends meant for aging, and the flavors can vary widely between winemakers.
In Napa Valley and Sonoma, California, Cabernet Sauvignon wines are typically more intense and fruit-forward. They showcase flavors of blackcurrant, blackberry, tobacco leaf, mint, and graphite. These wines can take a lot of oak, resulting in a dizzyingly intense wine.
Chile's Central Valley offers a more affordable collection of Cabernet Sauvignons that are earthy with spice notes, classic blackcurrant and dark berry flavors, and more pronounced "green" flavors, providing a fresher feel to the wines.
In South Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon wines feature unique bay leaf and white pepper notes in addition to the classic grape flavors. These wines can reach an ABV of around 15% and are known for their intense savory notes of graphite, licorice, and spices.
The winemaking process for Cabernet Sauvignon often involves the use of oak, which can impart additional flavors and complexity to the wine. This grape variety can withstand a lot of oak, which can result in powerful, intense wines.
The choice of whether to use new or used oak, as well as the length of time the wine spends in the barrel, can have a significant impact on the final product.
In general, longer aging in oak can result in a wine with more pronounced oak flavors, while shorter aging times or the use of used oak can result in a wine with a more balanced, subtle oak influence
Ah, the Syrah, or as our Australian friends prefer, Shiraz. It's a tale of two continents, indeed, but one single glorious grape. The mood is set as you pour into your glass and watch the swirl of that deep, nearly opaque ruby hue, filled with the allure of the unknown.
On the nose, Syrah enthralls you with a cornucopia of black fruit – think ripe blackberries, plums, even the occasional blueberry. Layered within these fruits are savory elements of black pepper, cured meat, and a distinctive hit of smoky leather.
Now, shift your gaze to the Southern Hemisphere, to the sun-drenched vineyards of Australia. Here, the Shiraz sings a slightly different tune. A sweeter symphony of licorice, chocolate, and anise plays harmoniously with jammy fruit notes.
When it comes to taste, Syrah is bold, full-bodied, and unapologetically tannic, with an acidity that sings on your palate. Shiraz, too, is voluptuous, but often showcasing a plush fruitiness and softer tannins.
These dark red wines pair seamlessly with equally bold foods: think a succulent roast lamb or an intensely seasoned barbecued brisket. Their tannins and acidity cut through the fat, while their robust flavors dance well with the savory meat.
Emerging from the vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina, Malbec paints your glass with its inky purple, a testament to its concentrated fruit flavors.
On the nose, Malbec is an orchestra of ripe red and black fruit – imagine black cherries, plums, and blackberries, occasionally touched by a hint of sweet tobacco and vanilla.
There's an earthy undercurrent that hums a sweet serenade, reminding you of its Old World roots in Cahors, France.
When it comes to taste, Malbec doesn't shy away. Full-bodied with medium tannins and acidity, it is both accessible and engaging.
There's a velvety smoothness that makes it quite irresistible, especially when paired with robust dishes like a juicy steak or an Argentinian Asado. Its fruit-forward profile, sprinkled with a touch of spice, matches beautifully with the smoky, charred flavors.
Mourvèdre, the sun worshipper! Native to Spain, this grape thrives in warm climates, from the rocky terrains of Bandol in Southern France to the rolling hills of California and Australia. The red wine is a deep, brooding garnet, inviting you to delve into its complexity.
On the nose, Mourvèdre is a bewitching blend of dark fruit, often blackberries and plums, intertwined with notes of meat, leather, and earth. You might even catch a whiff of an enchanting floral bouquet or an exotic spice market.
In taste, Mourvèdre is full-bodied, a real powerhouse with high tannins and medium acidity. There's a rustic elegance about it that pairs wonderfully with hearty fare like a Provencal lamb stew or grilled sausages. Its earthy notes lend a lovely contrast to the rich, meaty dishes.
15. Petit Verdot
Traditionally a minor player in Bordeaux blends, this grape has found its spotlight in New World regions, especially in California and Australia. In the glass, it unfurls a dark, near-opaque violet hue.
On the nose, Petit Verdot teases with a burst of ripe black fruits, predominantly blackberries and black cherries, underpinned by floral nuances and hints of spice, particularly violet and vanilla. You might also catch a whiff of graphite, adding a layer of complexity to its aromatic profile.
In taste, Petit Verdot is no shrinking violet. It's full-bodied, with a structured tannic backbone and vibrant acidity that adds a burst of freshness.
Despite its power, there's a velvety smoothness, a richness that makes it a fantastic partner to robust dishes like braised beef or a hearty lamb shank. Its dark fruit flavors and spice notes are a sublime match for the rich, savory flavors.
Next in line is Tannat, the bold ambassador of Uruguay and the hidden gem of Madiran in Southwestern France. This grape variety begets a wine that is as dark as a moonless night, cloaked in an enticing layer of mystery.
On the nose, Tannat charms with a mix of dark fruit - think blackberry and blackcurrant - with a distinctive minerality and occasional hints of dark chocolate and coffee. Its South American counterparts often carry a whiff of smoke, a mark of the terroir.
When it comes to taste, Tannat stands tall with its full-bodied, high tannin profile. The acidity is high too, providing a much-needed balance to the wine's robust structure. This is the type of red wine that yearns for rich, hearty dishes.
Imagine a juicy steak or a traditional Uruguayan asado - the wine's tannins and acidity balance the fattiness while its fruit and spice flavors complement the meat beautifully.
Aglianico, the Barolo of the South, is a proud symbol of Southern Italy, particularly Campania and Basilicata. It produces wines of a deep ruby hue, often so concentrated they almost appear black.
On the nose, Aglianico captivates with a bouquet of dark fruits, predominantly black cherry and plum, interlaced with notes of leather, smoke, and dried herbs. Occasionally, there's a touch of minerality that harks back to its volcanic soils.
Taste-wise, Aglianico is an intense experience. Full-bodied, high in tannins and acidity, it's the kind of red wine that grips your palate and invites you to ponder its complexity.
It is a wine that calls for food of equal gusto - perhaps a rich ragu or a hearty osso buco. The savory, earthy elements of the dish will harmonize beautifully with the wine's robust structure and flavors.
12. Cabernet Franc
Let's move north now, to the elegant Cabernet Franc. Parent to the more famous Cabernet Sauvignon, it is in the Loire Valley of France where Cabernet Franc truly shines. In the glass, it presents a beautiful medium-ruby color, a visual prelude to its refined character.
On the nose, Cabernet Franc enthralls with a mix of red and black fruits, predominantly raspberries and blackcurrants, alongside a signature bell pepper aroma. It often carries notes of violets and graphite, lending a delightful complexity.
When it comes to taste, Cabernet Franc is medium-bodied, with moderate tannins and high acidity. It is a wine that is both approachable and intricate, with a freshness that makes it incredibly food-friendly.
Pair it with dishes like roasted chicken or a vegetable stir-fry, where the wine's acidity and fruit flavors can shine without overpowering the food.
11. Durif/Petite Sirah
Durif, or as it's better known in the New World, Petite Sirah, is a grape variety that pours a dark, inky purple, almost opaque in its concentration.
On the nose, Petite Sirah enchants with a lavish spread of ripe black fruits, predominantly blackberries and blueberries, adorned with a sprinkling of peppercorn and licorice. From time to time, a hint of chocolate or coffee graces the aromatic profile.
When it comes to taste, Petite Sirah is all about power. It's full-bodied with a tannic grip and medium acidity, offering a rich, bold flavor profile that matches its intense color.
It's a wine that demands dishes of equal intensity - perhaps a slow-roasted pork shoulder or a rich, spiced stew. The bold flavors of the food harmonize beautifully with the wine's fruit-forward character and spicy undertones.
10. Nero d'Avola
From Sicily's sun-soaked vineyards, we bring you Nero d'Avola. This grape variety, named after the town of Avola, creates a wine of deep ruby red hue, reminiscent of the island's fiery sunsets.
On the nose, Nero d'Avola unfurls a bouquet of ripe black cherries and plums, layered with sweet spices and an intriguing hint of cocoa. The Sicilian sun's imprint is clear in the wine's robust aromatic profile.
In taste, Nero d'Avola is medium to full-bodied, showcasing medium tannins and a balancing acidity. Its rich, fruity flavors resonate well with hearty dishes - think a classic Sicilian caponata or a robust sausage ragu.
The wine's acidity cuts through the rich, savory elements, while its dark fruit flavors complement the dish beautifully.
Sweet and Fortified Reds
9. Port (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca)
Now, let's journey to the steep terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley, the birthplace of Port.
This fortified wine, made from a blend of indigenous grapes including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca, is a sensory feast. In the glass, it glows with a deep ruby or tawny hue, a promise of the opulence within.
On the nose, Port captivates with its intense aromas of dark berries, plum, and fig, accented by notes of chocolate, caramel, and a range of sweet spices. With age, the wine evolves, revealing nuances of dried fruit, nuts, and honey.
In taste, Port is a decadent experience. It's full-bodied, sweet, and luxuriously rich, with soft tannins and a warmth that comes from its elevated alcohol content.
It's a wine that calls for indulgent pairings – a creamy blue cheese or a rich chocolate dessert will do nicely, playing up the wine's sweet, complex flavors.
8. Banyuls (Grenache)
From the rugged coastline of Roussillon in Southern France, let's explore Banyuls, a vin doux naturel made primarily from Grenache. In the glass, it boasts an enticing tawny hue, hinting at its sun-soaked origins.
On the nose, Banyuls entrances with a lavish spread of ripe red and black fruit, paired with notes of chocolate, coffee, and a hint of vanilla. There's a Mediterranean warmth to its aromatic profile that's absolutely charming.
In taste, Banyuls is sweet and full-bodied, showcasing low tannins and moderate acidity. It pairs exceptionally well with chocolate desserts, the wine's sweet, fruity flavors forming a harmonious duet with the rich cacao notes.
7. Recioto della Valpolicella
We journey now to the vine-clad hills of Veneto, Italy, where we find Recioto della Valpolicella. Made from partially dried Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes, this wine is a beautiful ruby red, a testament to its concentrated flavors.
On the nose, Recioto is a fragrant medley of ripe cherries, prunes, and spices, interlaced with hints of chocolate and dried flowers. It's a sensory journey through the ripened vineyards of Valpolicella.
In taste, Recioto is sweet and full-bodied, marked by soft tannins and a balancing acidity. This is a wine that craves sweet pairings, particularly dark chocolate or berry-laden desserts, the wine's concentrated fruit flavors complementing the sweetness of the dish.
6. Maury (Grenache)
Next, we venture into the sun-drenched vineyards of Maury in Roussillon, Southern France. Here, Grenache takes center stage in a fortified wine that shimmers with a deep, inviting garnet color.
On the nose, Maury offers an enticing blend of ripe black cherries and plums, enveloped in layers of chocolate, coffee, and sweet spices. There's a lusciousness to its aroma that's nothing short of intoxicating.
In taste, Maury is sweet, full-bodied, and seductively smooth, with soft tannins and a modest acidity. It pairs beautifully with chocolate desserts, the wine's sweet, ripe fruit and cocoa flavors forming a harmonious duet with the rich, creamy cacao notes.
From the structured power of Bordeaux blends to the sun-kissed richness of Maury, there's a red wine to suit every palate.
Exploring these wines is a journey of discovery, each sip a chance to explore different corners of the world, from the vine-clad hills of Italy to the rugged terrains of Uruguay.
It's a journey that uncovers the beautiful interplay of grape variety, terroir, and winemaking tradition, one glass at a time. So, raise your glass and let's embark on this exciting adventure together!
These types of red wine owe more to the craft of the winemaker who utilizes components from various grape varietals to harmonize together as one.
5. Valpolicella Blends (including Amarone)
Next, we venture to the Veneto region of Italy, where the magic of Valpolicella blends, including the renowned Amarone, unfolds. These kinds of red wine are much like a grand Italian opera — complex, dramatic, and deeply moving.
Valpolicella wines, typically a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes, exhibit a ruby-red color and a flavor profile that ranges from fresh red fruits in the classic style to intense, dried fruit characteristics in the Amarone style.
The aroma, too, varies from bright cherry and raspberry to the more profound dried fruit and spice notes of Amarone.
Amarone della Valpolicella, made using the appassimento method, pairs beautifully with rich dishes like braised beef, game, or aged cheeses. The concentrated flavors, high alcohol content, and firm tannins of this wine demand bold, flavorful companions.
The winemaking process, particularly for Amarone, involves drying the grapes to concentrate the flavors before fermentation.
This labor-intensive method results in wines of extraordinary depth and complexity, a true joy for the discerning palate.
4. Bordeaux Blends (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec)
Let's now move to the prestigious vineyards of Bordeaux, where some of the world's finest blends are crafted.
Bordeaux reds, made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, are a deep, inviting ruby, speaking of their classic elegance.
On the nose, Bordeaux blends enchant with a complex array of dark fruit, often blackcurrant, plum, and cherry, adorned with notes of cedar, tobacco, and sometimes a touch of bell pepper. There's a gravitas to their aromatic profile that's absolutely captivating.
In taste, Bordeaux blends offer a splendid balance. They're full-bodied, with well-structured tannins and a refreshing acidity that lights up your palate.
These are wines that call for sophisticated pairings - perhaps a juicy roast beef or a delicate duck confit. The wine's tannins and acidity cut through the rich, savory flavors, creating a harmonious dining experience.
3. Rhône Blends (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre or GSM)
Hailing from the sun-drenched vineyards of southern Rhône Valley, the GSM blend is an homage to the union of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. In the glass, it presents a deep, alluring garnet hue, hinting at its full-bodied character.
On the nose, a GSM enchants with a medley of ripe red and dark fruits, predominantly strawberries, black cherries, and plums, complemented by an intricate web of herbs, spices, and occasionally a hint of leather or gamey undertones, especially from the Syrah and Mourvèdre components.
On the palate, GSM blends come alive. They are full-bodied, robust, and layered, presenting a dance of tannins and acidity that is perfectly balanced. The Grenache offers a juicy fruitiness, the Syrah contributes structure and a peppery spice, while Mourvèdre adds complexity and an earthy savoriness.
GSM is a versatile pairing partner, standing up well to a variety of dishes. Think grilled meats, particularly lamb, stews, or a platter of mature cheeses. Its robust character and inherent spiciness make it a fitting counterpoint to dishes with a bit of heat, matching intensity with intensity.
Whether sipping it on a quiet evening or serving it at a bustling dinner party, GSM is a blend that promises to captivate, glass after glass.
2. Super Tuscan (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)
Next, let's journey to the rolling hills of Tuscany, where rule-breaking Super Tuscans, often blends of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, reign supreme. These wines are a deep, alluring ruby, beckoning with their bold personality.
On the nose, Super Tuscans unfold with a symphony of dark cherries, blackberries, and plums, accented by notes of leather, tobacco, and a touch of vanilla. There's a harmony in their aromatic complexity that's fascinating.
In taste, Super Tuscans are full-bodied, with a firm tannic structure and a vibrant acidity. They're wines that call for rich, flavorful dishes - perhaps a classic Bistecca alla Fiorentina or a rich ragu.
The wine's tannins and acidity balance the dish's fattiness, while its fruity and earthy flavors form a delightful counterpoint.
Antinori Tignanello is a particularly famous (and delicious) Super Tuscan wine that is worth trying to taste.
Our final famous red wine variety is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a renowned red wine blend from the Rhône wine region in Southern France. I could have actually included this in the GSM section (#3) as this too uses the same grapes as a base.
The blend can include up to 13 grape varieties, but the majority of the blend often includes Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.
Grenache typically forms the backbone of the blend, providing body and concentrated red fruit flavors. Syrah adds color, tannin, and dark fruit flavors, while Mourvèdre adds structure and earthy, savory notes.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are known for their robust body, high alcohol content, and complex flavor profiles which can range from ripe red fruit, plum, and warm spice notes to earthier flavors of leather and garrigue, the aromatic scrubland herbs of Provence.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a versatile food wine, pairing well with a variety of dishes, particularly red meat, game, and hearty stews.
Frequently Asked Questions About Red Wines
1. What are the most popular types of red wine?
The most popular types of red wine are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, and Zinfandel.
Other notable red wine types include Grenache, Malbec, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Tempranillo. Each of these wines has its own distinctive flavor profile and style.
2. What does "full-bodied" mean when it comes to red wine?
"Full-bodied" refers to the weight or texture of a wine in your mouth. Full-bodied wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Malbec, are rich and powerful with high levels of alcohol and tannins, which can make the wine feel heavy or thick on the palate.
3. Are all red wines dry?
No, not all red wines are dry (meaning without residual sugar). Many red wines, like Bordeaux blends or Barolo, are typically made in a dry style. However, there are also many types of sweet red wines, such as Port, Recioto della Valpolicella, and some styles of Zinfandel.
4. What is tannin in red wine?
Tannin is a naturally occurring compound found in many plants, including grape skins, seeds, and stems. In wine, tannins contribute to the color, aging potential, and mouthfeel, particularly the astringency or "dry" sensation.
5. How should red wine be stored?
Red wine should be stored on its side in a cool, dark place with a consistent temperature, ideally around 55°F (13°C). Most red wines also benefit from a period of aeration or breathing before serving to allow the flavors to open up.
6. What food pairs well with red wine?
Food pairing depends on the type of red wine. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with red meat, while Pinot Noir goes well with duck, chicken, or mushroom dishes. Spicy and robust Syrah pairs beautifully with grilled meats and vegetables. It's all about balancing the weight and flavor intensity of the food with the wine.
7. What's the difference between Old World and New World red wines?
"Old World" refers to wines from regions where winemaking first originated, like France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. These wines tend to be more restrained and balanced with lower alcohol levels. "New World" refers to newer wine-producing regions like the U.S., Australia, and South Africa. These wines often have bolder fruit flavors, higher alcohol content, and more noticeable oak influence.
8. How long does red wine last once opened?
Typically, an opened bottle of red wine will last about 3-5 days when re-corked and stored in a cool, dark place. Wines with higher tannins and acidity levels tend to last a bit longer.