Since there are hundreds of varietals of red wine available around the world, it can be hard to determine the best option to suit your tastes. Luckily, we’ve compiled a helpful guide to some common red wine types to ensure there are no “pour” decisions in your future. Read on for Oola’s list of prominent red wines with fun facts, suggested food pairings, and tasting notes for each entry. We’ve structured the order from least intense to most intense flavor aka from lightest to boldest. Why not learn more about red wine today?
1. Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is our first popular red wine option and our lightest in flavor. It is known as an accessible but still complex wine with fruity and silky notes. Since Pinot Noir contains less tannins than other red wines, it pairs well with fish like salmon. This grape is famous for being temperamental and hard to cultivate in areas such as Burgundy in France, Oregon, and California in the United States, and areas of New Zealand. Generally, Pinot Noir is grown in cool to intermediate climates ranging from 55 degrees to 63 degrees. This varietal is a great entry point for newer red wine drinkers.
Sometimes called Garnacha, Grenache is a well-known grape for producing spicy, low acidity, fruit-forward wine. Often grown in Spain, Australia, Italy, the U.S., and parts of France, this grape prefers a warmer climate around 63 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Grenache is a good complement for braised meat dishes or hearty dishes due to it’s darker fruit and cinnamon notes. It also pairs well with extra herby fare with a medium tannins level. Extra bonus? The grape is known for being high in alcohol so join us on cloud wine with the popular Grenache.
3. Cabernet Franc
Our third entry on our popular wines list is the classic Cabernet Franc. Known for strong blueberry, pepper, and violet notes, this naturally acidic wine flourishes in climates between 59-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Some common areas where it’s grown are France, Italy, and Hungary in the Old World (Europe), and Canada, the United States, and Argentina in the New World (everywhere else). Cabernet Franc is considered one of the three kings of Bordeaux-style blending but is also enjoyed as a single varietal. It’s a medium-bodied red wine that can be enjoyed with hard and soft cheeses and roasted poultry dishes. Cabernet Franc is like the lesser known, earthier cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sangiovese is famous for being the most planted vine in Italy, a nation known for its celebration and consumption of wine. It comes from warm climates in the range of about 63 to 67 degrees such as Tuscany in Italy and the states of Washington and California in the U.S. This wine can be blended for the famous Chianti or enjoyed by itself; but, it’s best paired with food due to its high acidity and a somewhat harsher taste. It’s no surprise that Italian cuisine, especially dishes with balsamic and tomatoes goes well with Sangiovese. You could also try this varietal with the robust flavors of more gamey meat like rabbit or venison. Strong notes of berry, plum, and anise power through this medium-bodied beverage.
You had us at Merlot. This wine is very well-known and is grown all over the world; France, Romania, Chile and the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. produce great Merlot with their intermediate to warm climates. It is a very approachable, easy-to-drink, soft wine and another favorite of new vino drinkers. Since it’s so mild and pleasing to the palate without a super strong flavor profile, merlot conveniently pairs with all kinds of foods. It’s remarkably close to the lesser known Barbera grape in flavor with both containing less tannins than some other red varietals.
Our list of common red wines continues with the versatile and rich Zinfandel. Most often grown in California, Zin is full of zesty, berry, peppery flavors. Common viticulture knowledge holds that Zinfandel originated in either Croatia or Italy. Some dishes that would pair well with this wine would be pizza and pasta with tomato-based sauce or grilled meats. A couple fun facts about Zinfandel must be mentioned in our roundup; first, it’s a party grape that contains roughly 15-16% alcohol and second, it flourishes in warm to hot growing areas of 63-72 degrees.
Tempranillo is next on our list of prominent red wines. Known for being Spain’s number one wine grape, this varietal is also grown in Argentina, Texas, Oregon, California, Portugal, and more. In fact, Tempranillo is the world’s fourth most planted grape. It thrives in the middle range of intermediate to warm wine climates, ranging from 59 degrees to 67 degrees. Tempranillo is especially interesting as its characteristics change drastically depending on how long it is aged. A younger Tempranillo wine is likely to be fresh and fruity while an older Tempranillo would have leathery and dusty traits. For food suggestions, red meat, cured ham, and roasted vegetables all shine when paired with this red winner.
Another of the Bordeaux blending grapes, Malbec is known for tasting spicy and tart with heavy dried fruit notes. Nowadays, it is the dominant grape, and famously grown, in Argentina; France, Chile, Australia and the states of California and Washington in the U.S. also produce great Malbec with an ideal climate between intermediate and warm wine temperatures during growing season. It is considered a wine that is easy to drink and pairs perfectly with meaty and spicy dishes.
9. Cabernet Sauvignon
No list of prominent red wines couldn’t feature our next entry. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted vine in the world. It has a full-bodied bold taste nuanced with currant, olive, bell pepper, and herbs. Commonly called “Cab”, this popular and accessible wine goes great with a main dish of red meat. It’s noteworthy that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape ripens late in the growing season and is the primary ingredient of Bordeaux-style red blends. This wine is grown all over including in France, California, Italy, Chile, and Washington state.
The final common red wine we profiled is alternatively known as Syrah in most of the world and Shiraz in Australia. It’s also grown in other intermediate to warm temperature areas like France, California, and Washington state. Syrah is our most bold and intense wine with multifaceted hints of plum, clove, leather, blackberry, and pepper. It is described as hearty, sappy, spicy, and dense and pairs well with smoked meats, beef-forward stew, and aged hard cheeses.
Sip Sip Hooray! We’ve reached the end of our list of ten of the most common types of red wine. From smooth Pinot Noir, to versatile Tempranillo, to bold Sangiovese, we hope you now feel empowered to find wine to your tastes. Cheers!