Are you new to red wine? Maybe you have sampled red wine but want to know more about the different varietals. If so, read on. We are going to take you on a journey through what we regard to be the top eleven varietals of red wines.
11 Popular Red Wines Worth Checking Out
Naturally, there are many types of red wine, not just 11, but we think that our choices will give you a good idea of the varieties on offer.
1 – Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is a good place to start as it is a light red wine. You won’t be plunged straight into a full-bodied wine with high tannins.
Pinot Noir isn’t the easiest grape to grow but it is still produced all over the world. It is a light to medium-bodied wine with bright acidity and silky tannins. It is usually low in alcohol compared to other red wines. It usually has an ABV of between 12% and 13%.
Flavors vary according to where it is grown but they all have a somewhat fruity flavor. You could taste cherry and raspberry but you should also get an earthy bite of mushrooms and the forest floor. If the wine has been aged in French oak barrels, you will get a hint of vanilla and baking spice. The nose can be slightly floral.
Light-bodied Pinot Noirs are generally paired with lean and white meats such as poultry. Medium-bodied Pinot Noirs, which will have more tannins, are delicious served with beef stews, such as beef bourguignon. They also pair well with grilled meats, especially pork and bacon. If the meats have a sweet and smoky barbecue flavor, all the better. You can serve Pinot Noir with a charcuterie board or a cheese board with stinky cheeses such as Blue Stilton and Gorgonzola.
2 – Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely grown red grape in the world. It is possibly the most popular red wine there is and it is often used as the house wine in restaurants.
Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied, with high tannins and an ABV of over 13.5%. Because the grape is grown in so many different places, it will have different tastes but all have a hint of black fruits such as blackcurrants, blackberries, and black cherries. Old World Cabernet Sauvignons, from countries such as France, also have herbal and floral flavors of graphite, violets, and tobacco. New World Cabernets from Australia and Chile have flavors of cherries, licorice, and black pepper with a hint of vanilla. New World Cabernets have fewer tannins than Old World so they may be the best place to start.
Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with foods high in fat and umami flavors. The umami flavors overcome the savory taste of Cabernet Sauvignon and bring out the berry flavors. Try the wine with marinated ribeye steak, a charred gruyere burger, or braised short ribs. It goes well with mushrooms, especially portobello mushrooms. Indulge in a mushroom pizza, mushroom stroganoff, or mushroom risotto.
3 – Merlot
Merlot is medium to full-bodied and has an ABV of between 13.5% and 15%. When it is aged in American oak barrels, it has higher tannins.
Merlot is produced in both cool and warm climates. It is known to have a chocolatey taste but if it comes from a warmer area, it has a slight mocha flavor. It is a fruity wine and tastes of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and cherries. If it is aged in oak barrels, there is a hint of tobacco.
Because Merlot is an acidic wine, don’t pair it with anything tart. It goes well with red meats, beef stews, and roast poultry. If you are vegetarian, try it with roasted vegetables, especially those with a touch of sweetness such as squash, red peppers, and beets. When it comes to cheese, the best matches are aged, blue, and stinky cheeses. Try aged Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Blue Stilton, Parmesan, Camembert, and Brie.
4 – Red Zinfandel
Red Zinfandel is full-bodied and has medium to high levels of tannins and acidity. It offers fruity flavors making it a sweeter wine. On the nose, you have jammy red berries, and on the palate, flavors of dark fruits such as blackberries, blackcurrants, and cherries. There is, however, also a hint of spice and pepper.
Red Zinfandel pairs well with tomato-based curries, chili con carne, and beef stews. It is also a good match for Chinese dishes such as sweet and sour pork, and Moroccan and Turkish dishes such as lamb tagine. When it comes to cheese, aged Cheddar and Provolone are good choices.
5 – Barolo
Barolo originates in Piedmont in northwest Italy. The grapes have to be grown in designated areas to earn the name Barolo. It is often called ‘the wine of the kings’ because it has a history of being the drink of rulers and nobility.
Barolo is a full-bodied wine with high tannins and moderate to high alcohol levels. It has moderate fruity flavors such as black cherries, blackberries, red cherries, and cranberries. There are also earthy aromas including tobacco, cedar, tar, leather, and a little spice. Some Barolos have pepper or anise aromas. Most also have a slightly floral aroma of rose and rosehip.
When pairing Barolo with food, go for meat with robust flavors such as veal, braised, or roast beef, ribeye steak, or filet steak. If you like pizza and pasta, Barolo is a good choice, particularly mushroom pizza, and carbonara. Barolo is a good match for vegetarian dishes, especially mushrooms. Serve a glass with mushroom stroganoff or mushroom risotto. Porcini mushrooms and truffles are good choices. When it comes to cheese, strong cheeses like mature Cheddar are best.
6 – Malbec
Malbec is Argentina’s favorite wine but the grapes are also grown in the US and France.
The wine is full-bodied with medium tannin levels. It has a high ABV, often up to 15%. Malbec has a fruity flavor with dark fruits, such as plums, raisins, and black cherries taking prominence. There are also hints of cocoa and mocha, with a smoky finish.
Malbec pairs well with strong flavors. Look for dishes high in pepper and sage. Red meat like steak and lamb are good choices but, because Malbec doesn’t have a long finish, it will also pair with leaner red meats and even dark meat turkey and roast pork. If your meat has a creamy mushroom sauce, all the better. Malbec is a good accompaniment to a charcuterie board or tapas, as well as a cheese board. Blue cheeses such as Blue Stilton and Gorgonzola are the best choices.
7 – Grenache
Grenache is a medium-bodied wine with medium acidity and tannins. It has a high level of alcohol, even as much as 16%. It offers delicious fruit flavors including strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. This is balanced by spicy black pepper, cinnamon, and star anise. There are also hints of tobacco and bay leaf.
Because this wine is spicy, it goes well with spiced dishes such as Indian and Thai curries. The high alcohol content matches the heat of spicy sauces. If you want to slightly reduce the burning sensation, you can slightly chill the Grenache before serving. Surprisingly, it also pairs with chocolate desserts as long as it is dark chocolate.
8 – Sangiovese
Sangiovese is an Italian wine that has gained popularity in other parts of the world, especially Argentina.
It is a medium-bodied wine with medium to high acidity, tannins, and a high ABV. Its taste can vary according to where the grapes are grown but there are always red fruity flavors of red cherry, strawberry, plums, and raspberries. You will get a hint of tomato, sage, and rosemary, as well as spicy aromas of leather, tobacco, cloves, and licorice.
Sangiovese pairs well with pasta. Good choices are spaghetti Bolognese, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and pesto pasta. It also goes well with pizza and gnocchi. When it comes to meat, good choices are roast pork, lamb chops, and cured meats such as salami. If you are a vegetarian, you can enjoy this wine with roasted vegetables, ratatouille, and mushroom risotto. When it comes to cheese, Asiago, Pecorino, Mozzarella, and Parmesan are good choices. Don’t pair Sangiovese with spicy foods as the tannins in the wine will make the spices even stronger.
9 – Cabernet Franc
This wine is mainly produced in France, followed by Italy and then the US.
Cabernet Franc is medium-bodied, and has a low alcohol level, between 11.5% to 13.5%. It is, however, high in tannins and acidity.
Cabernet Franc has fruity notes mixed with a little spice. You will taste raspberries, black cherries, blackcurrants, and mulberries as well as savory bell peppers and slate.
Cabernet Franc pairs well with grilled steak and pork chops. You can get lighter versions of the wine, and these will complement chicken and white fish. Cabernet Franc is a good match for vegetarian dishes such as portobello mushroom risotto, mushroom stroganoff, and mushroom pizza. Add some green olives to the pizza as well as herbs and parmesan. When it comes to cheese, goat’s cheese is a good match.
10 – Syrah and Shiraz
Syrah and Shiraz are made from the same grape. The difference is where they’re from. Syrah is the original and is produced in France while Shiraz is from Australia. Syrah, which comes from a colder climate, is lighter in body than Shiraz and has finer tannins. It also has a lower ABV. Shiraz is more intense and has a fuller body.
Syrah is fruitier than Shiraz. You will have tastes of dark fruit such as blackberries, blackcurrants, and blueberries. There is also a hint of savory black olives. Shiraz has flavors of pepper and spices although there is a hint of red fruit including strawberries and raspberries.
Both Syrah and Shiraz are best paired with barbecued food such as burgers, ribs, and even grilled eggplant and portobello mushrooms. Roast duck, beef chili, and beef bourguignon are also good choices. If you want to drink this wine with fish, don’t go for light and white fish. Instead, choose grilled tuna or baked salmon. When it comes to cheese, they pair with something salty like Halloumi, Gouda, Asiago, and Gruyere, as well as hard cheese, including Pecorino, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Grana-Padano.
11 – Tempranillo
This is a Spanish wine but is now grown in other countries. It is medium to full-bodied and has high tannins and acidity levels.
Tempranillo is a blend of sweet and savory. You will get flavors of cherry, dried fig, cedar, and tobacco. As the wine ages, the fruit flavors become juicier and older vintages feature deep, dark, fruit notes, dry leaves, and leather flavors.
Tempranillo pairs well with a variety of foods. When it comes to meat, grilled and smoky dishes are best. It pairs well with beef lasagna, pizza, and tomato-based dishes such as pork goulash. Spicy Mexican food is a good choice as is a charcuterie board and tapas. Tempranillo complements grits, polenta, and dishes made with corn. When it comes to cheese, try the wine with Manchego cheese, a Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of wine are there?
The three types of wine are red, white, and rose. As well as being still wines, they can be sparkling. Sweeter wines, whatever color, can be called dessert wines as they complement sweet treats. In addition, there are fortified wines such as sherry, Madeira, and port.
How many calories are there in a standard 5 oz glass of red wine?
A 5 oz glass of red wine has approximately 125 calories. If the wine is very sweet, it may have a little more.
What are tannins?
Tannins are compounds that are found in all parts of grapes. They give a bitter and dry taste. Because red wine is made from both the flesh and skin of grapes, they have more tannins than white wine which is made with just the flesh.
How do you store red wine?
The best way to store wine is on its side. The temperature should be around 50 F. Keep the wine away from any light as well.
How do you serve red wine?
Red wine should be served at a temperature of around 65 F. If it seems too warm, put it in the fridge for a short time.
Hopefully, we have inspired you to try different red wines and have found ones that you have enjoyed. As you can see, red wines can be very different and can suit different occasions, be it a dinner party or a quiet evening at home. Have fun on your wine journey!