A Complete Overview of Red Wine Types

The fermenting procedure used to make red wine is what draws out the color and flavor from the grape skins, giving the drink its distinctive ruby hue. These grapes, which come in several species and sub-varieties, are the basis for a plethora of distinctive red wines. The world of red wine offers a spectrum of flavors to explore and savor, from the powerful and full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon to the subtle and nuanced Pinot Noir.


Knowing the many classifications of red wine will help you choose the right bottle for every situation, whether you're hosting a dinner party, going out to a restaurant, or just relaxing at home. The world of red wine is full of intrigue, so let's set out on an adventure to discover how tradition, artistry, and the splendor of nature join together to create magnificent libations that excite the senses.


Common Types of Red Wine


Cabernet Sauvignon


A popular red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon has its roots in the Bordeaux area of France. It has now received widespread recognition for its audacious and sturdy nature. Blackcurrant, black cherry, and even cedar or tobacco notes can be found in Cabernet Sauvignon wines, which are also recognized for their dark red color and high tannin content. Full-bodied and with a lasting aftertaste, this kind is a common favorite.


Best food to pair it with:


Steak, lamb, and other grilled or roasted red meats

Hard and aged cheeses, like aged cheddar or gouda

Tomato-based dishes with thick sauces




Also from the Bordeaux area, Merlot is a more accessible and mellower substitute for Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a medium to full body and often displays flavors of ripe plums, blackberries, chocolate, and even herbs. The smooth texture, mild tannins, and pleasing harmony of fruitiness and acidity are hallmarks of Merlot wines.


Best food to pair it with:


chicken or turkey that has been roasted

Creamy or tomato-based pasta sauces

Cheeses ranging from soft to semihard include Brie and Gruyère.


Pinot Noir


The chilly climates of Burgundy, France, and the Willamette Valley, Oregon, are ideal for growing Pinot Noir, which is known for its sophistication and complexity. In comparison to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the body of this red wine is more delicate, and the notes of red berries, cherries, and soil are more subtle. Pinot Noir is highly regarded for its adaptability and ability to convey regional variations.


Best food to pair it with:


Salmon or other fatty fish, grilled or roasted.

foods that feature mushrooms, such as grilled portobello mushrooms or mushroom risotto.

Cheeses that melt easily, such Camembert and Goat.




Syrah, sometimes spelled Shiraz, is a robust and powerful red wine that is popular in many countries. Blackberry, black pepper, smoked pork, and violet are just some of the tastes you'll find in this French Rhône Valley import. Syrah wines have a reputation for being robust, with a lengthy and sometimes peppery aftertaste.


Best food to pair it with:


Grilled or braised meats, like barbecue ribs or lamb chops

Spicy dishes, such as Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine

Strong and aged cheeses, like Roquefort or Stilton




Although it was first produced in France, Malbec is today most often associated with Argentina. The normal flavor profile includes notes of blackberry, plum, and mocha, and the color is a rich purple. Malbec wines are typically full-bodied with moderate tannins and a soft, pleasant aftertaste.


Best food to pair it with:


Grilled meats, such as steak or burgers

Spicy sausages or chorizo

Hard cheeses, like Manchego or Parmesan




Typically linked with the Golden State, Zinfandel is a red wine that can range from light and fruity to full and powerful. Flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and even black pepper and spice can be found in it. Tannin and acidity levels in Zinfandel wines can differ widely, giving wine enthusiasts a wide range of options.


Best food to pair it with:


Barbecue dishes, like grilled ribs or pulled pork

Spicy or tangy sauces, such as buffalo



Lesser-Known Red Wine Varieties


Trying some of the lesser-known red wine kinds is a fun way to broaden your horizons and your palate. The variety and depth of the red wine world are on display in these bottles, delivering exciting new tastes to those who are prepared to try something different.




Sangiovese is an Italian grape that is used to make some of the world's best-known wines, including Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. Red cherry, strawberry, and herb notes are common in Sangiovese wines, along with a tangy, medium-body acidity. They can range from lighter and more approachable styles to more complex and age-worthy expressions.


Best food to pair it with:


Traditional Italian dishes like pasta with tomato-based sauces or lasagna

Grilled or roasted vegetables

Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese




Spanish red wines like Rioja and Ribera del Duero rely heavily on the Tempranillo grape, which is widely grown across the country. Red and black berry, leather, tobacco, and vanilla are common flavors in these wines. Wines made from the Tempranillo grape often have a fruity, earthy, balanced profile, and a medium to full body.


Best food to pair it with:


Grilled or roasted lamb

Tapas and cured meats

Manchego or aged Spanish cheeses




Grenache, sometimes spelled Garnacha, is a robust red grape that does well in many different wine-growing climates around the world. It is most often found blended with other grapes, but it can be obtained on its own. Red fruits like raspberry and strawberry, with traces of spice and herbs, are typical in Grenache wines. Their body is often in the middle, and they have low to medium tannins.


Best food to pair it with:


Roasted or grilled meats, such as roasted chicken or pork tenderloin

Moroccan or Middle Eastern cuisine

Semi-soft cheeses like Gouda or Fontina




Some of Italy's most renowned wines, such as Barolo and Barbaresco, are made from the noble red grape variety Nebbiolo, which is grown largely in the Piedmont region. Nebbiolo wines are highly regarded for their nuanced flavor profiles, crisp acidity, and robust tannins. They can age well and feature complex tastes like red cherry, rose, tar, and truffle.


Best food to pair it with:


Rich and hearty dishes like braised beef or wild game

Truffle-infused dishes or risotto

Aged cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gorgonzola




Although it was developed in Bordeaux, France, Carmenere red grapes are today most closely identified with Chile. In addition to its medium to full body and mild tannins, this wine features flavors of black cherries, green pepper, and spice. Carmenere wines have a reputation for being accessible and soft, with a bold personality.


Best food to pair it with:


Grilled or roasted meats, such as grilled steak or roasted pork loin

Spicy Latin American dishes

Semi-hard cheeses like Gruyère or Emmental


Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Most Popular Red Wine?


While tastes may vary, Cabernet Sauvignon consistently ranks as one of the world's most popular red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon has a dedicated fan base thanks to its robust flavor and longevity in the cellar. Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah/Shiraz are a few other common choices for red wine drinkers.


What Temperature Should Red Wine be Served at?


The ideal serving temperature for red wine can vary depending on the wine's characteristics and personal preference. As a general guideline:


Light-bodied red wines (such as Pinot Noir) are often served slightly chilled, around 12-16°C (54-61°F).

Medium to full-bodied red wines (such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) are typically served at room temperature, around 16-18°C (61-64°F).

If in doubt, it's better to err on the slightly cooler side and allow the wine to warm up gradually in the glass.


What Type of Red Wine is Best?


What makes a certain red wine the best for a given person, event, and meal is impossible to say. It's worthwhile to try out several types of red wine to see which flavors and aromas you enjoy the most. When trying to find the perfect red wine, it's important to think about characteristics like taste profile, body, tannin level, and personal preference.


What Are Common Red Wine Flavor Descriptions?


Fruity: Cherry, berry (including raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry), plum, and currant flavors are common in red wines.

Earthy: The scents and flavors of the earth are reflected in the character of some red wines. Forest floor, wet leaves, mushrooms, truffles, and herbs like thyme and sage are all examples of what this can smell like.

Spicy: Spices may be a fascinating and intriguing addition to red wines. The names of spices like black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, anise, and licorice are frequently used.

Oak-derived: When wines are stored in oak barrels, the wood's natural flavors can be absorbed by the wine over time. Oak aromas can range from mild to robust, and include hints of vanilla, coconut, cedar, toast, and even smoke.

Chocolate and coffee: Dark chocolate, cocoa, mocha, and even espresso are flavors found in some red wines. These features enhance the complexity and fullness of the wine's flavor.

Floral: Roses, violets, lavender, and other light flowers can sometimes be detected in the scents and flavors of red wines. The addition of these floral accents can give the wine a sophisticated air.

Sweetness: Some red wines may have a very mild sweetness, despite the fact that the majority of red wines are considered dry. Words like "jammy," "ripe," and "candied" are indicators of a wine's perceived sweetness.


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