If you’re new to wine, we know it can be intimidating. Dozens of different countries worldwide make millions of bottles of our favorite fermented drink, and they come in all colors and styles.
When it comes to red wine, grapes couldn’t be more different; each has a unique personality. Don’t worry, they’re all quite pleasing, but if you really want to undertake the exciting, but never-ending quest for wine knowledge, here are some of the most famous red grapes and wines made from them.
What Types Of Red Wine Are There?
1. Cabernet Sauvignon, the king of red grapes
Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of red grapes. It’s the most planted red wine grape in the world and produces structured, layered wines with a robust character. The grape is behind age-worthy collectible wines but also the perfect steak night wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a French grape from the Bordeaux region, but it grows so easily that it’s now planted everywhere. Find great examples from Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Washington State, Chile, South Africa, Tuscany and Australia.
The famous grape is known for its black currant aromas with hints of dried herbs and tobacco leaves over a structured, firm palate and a vanilla-scented aftertaste.
Cabernet Sauvignon is excellent with fatty red meat, grilled prime cuts, hearty slow-cooked stews, roasted duck and grilled veggies.
2. Merlot, a noble, friendly grape
Merlot plays second fiddle for Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s the second most planted red grape in the world. Both grapes are often blended — Cabernet brings the structure and Merlot the juiciness and fruit generosity. Also from Bordeaux, Merlot is popular for its kind nature.
Merlot is Cabernet’s stablemate, so you’ll find it in the same places. Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Washington State, Chile, South Africa, Tuscany and Australia.
Merlot’s flavors are often reminiscent of blueberries, plums and juicy berry aromas over a smooth, round palate.
Merlot lacks the structure and firmness of a Cabernet, so it’s better paired with lean red meat like fillet mignon, and roasted poultry, especially when covered in fruity berry-based sauces.
3. Syrah/Shiraz, a wild spicy grape
The sixth most planted grape in the world is native from the Rhone Valley in France, where it’s called Syrah. It’s also immensely popular in Australia, where it’s called Shiraz. Either way, the grape needs warmer growing conditions than the grapes above; it will only thrive in hot climates.
Find amazing Syrah in the French Rhone Valley, in Paso Robles, California, in the warm valleys of Chile, and everywhere in the blistering vineyards of Australia.
French Syrah, grown in moderately warm regions tastes like red berries, cooking herbs, and a characteristic black peppercorn aroma. Australian Shiraz tastes like ripe blackberries and spicy chocolate. In both cases, Syrah is full-bodied and structured.
Syrah is wild and rustic and pairs better with game meat like venison and boar, rustic meat stews, hearty broths and grilled beef seasoned with black pepper.
4. Malbec, South America’s darling
Malbec is Argentina’s flagship grape. It’s originally a French grape, and you can still find it in small towns in southwest France. Today, it’s more Argentine than French.
You might find some French examples of the grape, but the best Malbec comes from Argentina, particularly from the Mendoza region at the Andes foothills.
Malbec is bold, rich and lush. It holds nothing back and often presents itself with blackberry and plums surrounded by hints of violets and herbs. The palate is juicy and meaty, but never rough.
The Argentine grilling traditions have proven to be the perfect pairing for Malbec. Charcoal-grilled meat and juicy sausages. Malbec goes great with anything kissed by the fire.
5. Pinot Noir, The queen of the cold
This is the tenth most planted grape in the world, but it might very well be the noblest of them all. Unlike Cabernet, Pinot Noir only grows where the conditions are just right. The grape loves chilly weather and will only thrive in unique spots scattered around the world.
To find great Pinot Noir, you must consider the coldest vineyards on the planet. Pinot is native from Burgundy, in France, where you’ll find some of its best expressions, but it found a new home in Oregon, and in fresh, coastal regions in Chile, South Africa and Australia.
Pinot Noir is liquid silk. Black cherries infused with earthbound aromas reminiscent of mushrooms, dried leaves and truffles fill your nose. At the same time, your palate is caressed by the smoothest texture and the crispest acidity for a long elegant aftertaste.
Pinot is gorgeous with mushroom-based dishes, Asian stir-fries, roasted poultry, and oily fish like salmon and tuna.
6. Pinotage, a new coming rebel
Unlike the century-old grapes above, Pinotage is the new kid on the block. It was first bred and commercially produced in 1961 in South Africa in the quest for finding a grape that could withstand the ancient continent’s harsh climate.
To try this interesting grape, you must look at South Africa. The country developed the grape, and it’s practically the only source for it.
Pinotage has a rebellious personality, it’s sturdy and brambly offering aromas of ripe blackberries, blackcurrant jam, smoke and vanilla. On the palate, Pinotage is structured, firm and can be quite textural.
The South African grape is as expressive and untamable that it pairs with wild red meat. Think mouton, roasted lamb and smoky barbecued meat.
7. Gamay, beauty in simplicity
Gamay is a lesser-known French variety and Pinot Noir’s stablemate. You might know it by the name of its most famous hit, Beaujolais. Although Beaujolais is a place in France, the wine there is made with Gamay.
For Gamay, there’s no better source than Beaujolais itself, it’s the region’s most planted red grape, and it’s famous for its fruity and easy-to-drink ‘nouveau’ wines.
Think of Gamay as a baby Pinot Noir. It’s equally smooth and silky, but much more straightforward and fruitier. Think red cherries and flowers, that’s it — beauty in simplicity. Gamay is the quintessential summer red wine, and it’s a fabulous entry-level red grape if you’re just getting started in wine.
Gamay pairs nicely with roast poultry, juicy sausages and soft cheese, it’s lovely on its own too!
When it comes what types of red wine are there?
The ones mentioned are just the peak of the iceberg because in reality there are hundreds of different grape varieties. However, don’t let the numbers scare you, each wine grape is an opportunity to learn and taste something new!
Wine is all about discovery; it’s a journey of flavours, aromas and textures in every bottle and every glass, and that’s the kind of trip we love, how about you?
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Please also check out our delicious beef stew in red wine recipe!
Disclaimer; This article is intended for information purposes only. It’s intended for adults with an interest in red wine who are above the legal drinking age in the country their from.