Mer-lot of Options: 10 of the Best Red Wine Varieties

Best Red Wine
Wines are very versatile, and when it comes to the rose-colored red wine, you will always find one to suit your palate perfectly. Be it juicy, tarty, smooth, or sweet, you name it, you have it. Red wine is perfect for any and every occasion, you just need to choose the right one!
Tastessence Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Red wines are produced from red or black grapes. All grapes produce colorless wines, however, the red color of red wines is achieved by soaking the grape skins in the juice till the color bleeds out. The skin gives the red wine its color, and adds a substance called tannin to the wine. This gives the red wines their complex texture.
Tannin has a mouth-drying quality that gives you that firm feeling in the mouth when you take a sip. The younger the red wine, more intense is the firmness. As the wine ages, the firmness of the tannins mellows down, and helps in developing the other characteristic flavors of the red wine. Thus, it is common knowledge that red wines age better than white wines.
The Best Red Wines
When you are out buying red wines, you should remember that they are divided according to their quality. The ordinary red wines are those that are bottled without aging and are the cheapest wines that lack the prominent taste. The fine red wines are those that are produced from the best grapes and kept in special tuns for several years. This adds to their remarkable taste. This makes these wines cost a fortune as they are worth tasting.

** Some of the most popular and the best red wines are made from one, or a combination of these grape varieties.
cabernet sauvignon
Cabernet sauvignon is a thick-skinned grape, and is highly dense and tannic. It is one of the most popular, and readily available grape varieties around the world. The grape is a cross between the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.

► Regions: Bordeaux, Piedmont, Rioja, Loire Valley, Napa, Sonoma, Chile, Argentina.

► Flavors: Plum, blackberry, cherry, spice, tobacco, and vanilla.

► Goes Well With: Fatty red meats, strong cheese varieties, mushrooms, and dark chocolate.
► Wines: Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Groth Cabernet Sauvignon.
pinot noir
Known for being the toughest grape to grow, Pinot noir is a black wine grape variety and is mostly grown in the Burgundy (original home of the grape) and Champagne regions, California, Casablanca Valley, Romania, and Tasmania, among others. Pinot noir stands at par with Cabernet Sauvignon when it comes to popularity, due to its strength of character.
► Regions: Romanee-Conti, Le Chambertin, Richebourg, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vougeot, Sonoma, Martinborough, Victoria, Rio Negro, Central Valley (Chile).

► Flavors: Fruity flavors like strawberry, raspberry, and cherry, spicy flavors like cinnamon, clove, and tobacco, and herbal flavors are also common.

► Goes Well With: Beef, bacon, fish, lamb, game, mushrooms, cheese, and chocolate.
► Wines: Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Richebourg Grand Cru, Mommessin Clos de Tart Grand Cru Monopole, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Assortment Case, Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Emmanuel Rouget Cros Parantoux, Belle Glos 'Meiomi' Pinot Noir.
merlot
Merlot is a blue-colored wine grape, which produces some of the most popular wines in the world. These wines are medium-bodied, and have medium tannins. Merlot is the most widely planted grape in France. It is mostly identified for its smooth and rounded taste.

► Regions: Pomerol, Napa, Toscana, California, Lazio, Howell Mountain, Bordeaux, North Coast.

► Flavors: Plum, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, cocoa, and black pepper.

► Goes Well With: Red meat, poultry, pasta, and also salads.
► Wines: Petrus, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Masseto Toscana IGT, Marilyn Monroe Wines 'Marilyn' Merlot, Blackstone Winemaker's Select Merlot, Shafer Vineyards Merlot, Sterling Vineyards Merlot, Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot, Chateau Le Coin, Beringer Vineyards Bancroft Ranch Howell Mountain Merlot, Clos du Bois Merlot.
shiraz
Known as 'Syrah' in France, and 'Shiraz' in Australia, it is a dark-skinned grape, known for producing medium to full-bodied red wines. However, Syrah and Shiraz have some distinctive features, which make them different from each other. It is the most important, and therefore, the most planted grape variety in majority of Australian vineyards.
► Regions: Australia, Eden Valley, Côtes du Rhône, Barossa, Montsant, Toro, Salta, Tuscany, Maipo Valley, Sicily.

► Flavors: Blackberry, blueberry, and blackcurrants. Sometimes the flavors of milk and dark chocolate can be identified, along with pepper, cloves and licorice.

► Goes Well With: Meaty pizzas, beef stew, grilled veal, spicy venison, mushrooms, and eggplant.
► Wines: Penfolds Grange Bin 95, Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz, d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz, Penfolds RWT Shiraz, Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, Rosemount Estate Shiraz, Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz, Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz.
zifandel
Zinfandel is a red wine grape variety, though originally from Europe, is majorly cultivated in California since the mid-1800s. Zinfandel grapes are used mostly to make pink-colored wine, as the skins are removed quickly. This wine has a high alcohol content.

► Regions: Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley, Lodi, Napa Valley, Red Hills Lake County, North Coast, California, Russian River Valley, Paso Roblos, Alexander Valley.
► Flavors: Raspberry, blackberry, cherry, spice, raisins, and black pepper. The flavor of the oak casks is prominent.

► Goes Well With: Beef, lamb, game, and fish, all either grilled, stewed, or braised. Zinfandel also goes well alongside spicy food like tacos and burgers.
► Wines: Ridge Vineyards Geyserville Zinfandel, Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs, Michael-David Winery Seven Deadly Zins Zinfandel, Beringer Vineyards California Collection White Zinfandel, Robert Biale Vineyards Black Chicken Zinfandel, Rosenblum Cellars North Coast Zinfandel, Cakebread Cellars Red Hills Lake County Zinfandel.
malbec
Malbec has its origin in the Bordeaux region of France, and is a purple-skinned grape, used for making red wine. The most favorite grape of Argentina, Malbec is now successfully grown in other countries like the U.S., Australia and Chile. Malbec typically produces a dry red wine, inky in color, which is highly acidic and tannic.
► Regions: Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo, Ugarteche, Uco Valley, Bordeaux, Cahors, La Rioja, San Juan, Buenos Aires, Washington State, Australia, New Zealand, Oregon, Bolivia.

► Flavors: Plum, blackberry, black cherry, tobacco, leather, and pepper. You also get spicy, earthy, and smoky flavors.

► Goes Well With: Spicy food (Thai, Indian, Mexican, Cajun) or anything barbecued (game, beef, chili, lamb).
► Wines: Catena Zapata 'Catena Malbec', Catena 'Alamos' Malbec, Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec, Dona Paula Estate Malbec, Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira La Consulta Malbec, Vina Cobos 'Cobos' Malbec,San Pedro de Yacochuya Malbec, Graffigna Clasico Malbec.
sangiovese
Sangiovese is the most widely planted grape in Italy, and is known for its medium body, and medium to firm tannin structure. It is a thick-skinned berry, that takes longer to mature as compared to other grape varieties. Sangiovese is very popular, as many prime wines are produced from this variety of grapes.
► Regions: Toscana, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, Mendoza, California, Umbria, Washington.

► Flavors: Plum, cherry, strawberry, cinnamon, and vanilla. Sometimes you might get a leathery aroma as well, depending on the climatic conditions.

► Goes Well With: Pastas and aged cheeses, chicken, pork, red meat, and fish.
► Wines: Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT, Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Montevertine Le Pergole Torte Toscana IGT, Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova, Marchesi de Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo, Valdicava Madonna del Piano, Felsina Berardenga Fontalloro Toscana IGT.
barbera
Being Italy's third most-commonly planted grape variety, Barbara is known for its color and the low tannins. It is also a grape which is high in acidity, and therefore, can be grown in warm climatic conditions as well. The origin of the grape dates back to the hills of Monferrato, in Piedmont, Italy. Barbera vine must be pruned at regular intervals to keep the growth in control, as it has a high-yielding capacity.
► Regions: Alba, Asti, Monferrato, Sardinia, Aosta, Sierra Foothills, Adelaide Hills, San Juan.

► Flavors: Dark cherry, spice, plum, strawberry, lavender, vanilla, anise, and dry fruits.

► Goes Well With: Rabbit meat, game, beef, turkey, lamb, vegetables casserole.
► Wines: Giacomo Bologna Braida Bricco dell' Uccellone, Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia Barbera d'Alba, Fontanafredda Briccotondo Piemonte Barbera, Vietti Tre Vigne, Marchesi di Barolo Maraia Barbera del Monferrato, Elio Altare Larigi Langhe Rosso, Vietti Scarrone Barbera d'Alba, Pico Maccario Lavignone.
tempranillo
Tempranillo is native to Spain, and plays a very important role in the wine production of Portugal. Most red wines in the regions Rioja and Ribera Del Duero contain this grape in its ingredients. Tempranillo is a black-skinned variety of grape that produces full-bodied red wines with moderate tannins. The grape was initially mistaken as a cousin of the Pinot Noir, however, later studies revealed no similarities in the two grape varieties.
► Regions: Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Penedès, Valdepeñas, Navarra, Alentejo, Douro, Central Valley (California), Umpqua Valley.

► Flavors: Plum, cherry, tobacco, leather, herb, and vanilla.

► Goes Well With: Versatile wine, but goes well with pork, grilled an roasted food, beef salad, lamb, black beans, eggplant.
► Wines: Dominio de Pingus, Vega Sicilia Alion, Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, Numanthia, Artadi Vina El Pison, Remirez de Ganuza Reserva, Bodegas Maurodos San Roman, Emilio Moro, Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez Condado de Haza Crianza.
nebbiolo
Famous for its 'tar and roses' scent, Nebbiolo is a black-skinned grape used in the wines of the Piedmont region of Italy. They produce a light-colored red wine, which are mostly high in tannins. With age, however, it turns reddish-orange in color.

► Regions: Barolo, Langhe, Sforzato di Valtellina, Gattinara, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Valle de Guadalupe, Colline Novaresi.

► Flavors: Plum, blackberry, cherry, currant.

► Goes Well With: Very spicy food, Italian cuisines, flavorful meats, Parmesan cheese.
► Wines: Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, Gaja Barbaresco DOCG, Gaja Sperss Barolo, Luciano Sandrone Cannubi Boschis, Bartolo Mascarello Barolo DOCG, Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Asili, Domenico Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra, Travaglini Gattinara DOCG.
Best Red Wine for Cooking
It was an old habit of cooks around the world to add any undrinkable wine as an ingredient to their recipes. However, over the years, the rule when it comes to using red wine for cooking is, 'If you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it'. Also, when you choose red wine for cooking, you should keep in mind that wines of one region blend perfectly with recipes of the same region.

When choosing red wines for cooking, there is no hard and fast rule. You need to remember some wines impart a fruity flavor to the recipes and some make them acidic. You can choose Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz/Syrah, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Franc as an ingredient for cooking.