Learn about red wine — the range of styles, how it’s made and more ...
What are the types and styles of red wine?
There are hundreds of types of red wine varieties in commercial use, from light and finessed to bold and structured, however, only about 35 varieties contribute to the majority of red wine production. The most grown grape varieties are:
- Cabernet Sauvignon. Power, elegance and complexity.
- Merlot. Soft mouthfeel.
- Tempranillo. Red and black fruit, earth and herbs.
- Syrah. Dark fruit, pepper, spicy and savory.
- Grenache. Ripe red fruit and sexy texture.
- Pinot Noir. Earthy, silky and complex.
- Sangiovese. Red fruit, earthy and herbal.
How is red wine made?
To make red wine, the pressed grape juice is left in contact with its skins—a process called maceration—to draw out color, tannins and phenols (compounds responsible for the complex aromas and flavors in wine). With fermentation complete, the wine is aged in tank or barrel. Short aging results in a fresh, fruity red. To allow time for flavors to integrate, more complex wines need to age longer, often in oak barrels, which may impart notes of toast, vanilla or coconut.
What gives red wine its color?
Grape juice is almost colorless. Color comes from maceration, when the juice is left in contact with grape skins. Longer macerations result in deeper red tones, but grape variety hues vary. For example, wines made from Nebbiolo are pale garnet, Merlot is bright ruby and Syrah opaque purple.
How do you serve red wine?
Temperature is key. Aim for 55° F to 60° F for lighter reds and 60° F to 65° F for fuller ones. A wine served too cold will be muted. Serve it warm and it will taste too alcoholic. If you have a wine fridge or cellar, you’re set. If not, place the bottle in your refrigerator for 20-30 minutes prior to serving. Next, some reds benefit from a few minutes or more of aeration in a decanter. This exposes the wine to oxygen, which helps release the compounds responsible for aroma and taste. As for drinking red wines, the best glasses have a stem and a bowl large enough to allow proper swirling to allow release of aromas. Fill your glass no more than halfway.
How long does red wine last?
Opened and re-corked, a bottle will stay fresh in your fridge for one to two days, a bit longer for more tannic reds. (We have ideas for what to do with leftover red wine if you don’t get back to it quickly). Unopened, red wines stay good for one year to several decades. Optimal storage means bottles lay on their sides in a moderately humid environment at 57° F, but assessing how long to age a bottle is complicated. Seek a wine professional for advice if you are unsure.
Pairing red wine with food
These guidelines will help you make the most of red wine pairing options.
- If a sauce is involved, focus more on that than the protein. For example, considering Coq Au Vin, play off the pancetta, mushrooms and wine with an earthy Pinot Noir.
- Match intensity levels, i.e. a bold red with a bold dish, lighter with lighter. Spice-rubbed lamb kabobs go perfectly with a bold Syrah from Columbia Valley, Washington.
- A highly tannic red pairs well with fatty foods. Dolcetto is amazing with a cheese and charcuterie plate.
- High acid foods call for high acid wines. Ever wonder Barbera and Sangiovese are so ubiquitous in Italy? As high acid wines, both are perfect matches to anything involving tomato sauce.
- Beware of dry red with dessert! Your wine should be sweeter than the treat. Try Tawny Port with dark chocolate for a match made in heaven.
Popular red wine regions
While every U.S. state produces wine, the most famous and popular regions remain those on the west coast:
- Napa Valley. First commercial winery 1861. Cabernet.
- Sonoma County. Since mid-1800’s. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet.
- Paso Robles. 1880’s. Cabernet, Zinfandel and Rhone varieties.
- Santa Rita Hills. 1971. Pinot Noir.
- Willamette Valley, Oregon. 1965. Pinot Noir.
- Columbia Valley, Washington (and part of northern Oregon). 1860’s. Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet.
Worldwide, wine destinations abound, with the most venerated in Europe. The last four are popular New World regions.
- Bordeaux, France. As early as 60 BC. Based on Merlot and Cabernet.
- Burgundy, France. From 2nd century AD. Pinot Noir.
- Tuscany, Italy. From 8th century BC. Based on Sangiovese, plus “Super Tuscans” made with other reds.
- Rioja, Spain. From 11th century BC. Based on Tempranillo.
- Stellenbosch, South Africa. 1680’s. Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage.
- Mendoza, Argentina. Late 1800’s. Malbec and others.
- Colchagua Valley, Chile. 1870’s. Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere.
- Barossa Valley, Australia. 1842. Shiraz and others.
Sweet red wine
Whether light and effervescent (e.g., Lambrusco and Brachetto d’Acqui) or bold and fortified (Port and Bual Madeira), sweet red wines can be terrific on their own or with a range of desserts.
Dry red wine
A dry red occurs when fermentation continues until most or all grape sugars have been converted to alcohol. Most common red wines on the shelf – Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, etc.—are dry wines. Since dry wines have little to no residual sugar, they also have fewer calories, especially when comparing them to Champagne and sparkling wines.
Smoothest red wine
Red wines are perceived as smooth when their tannins are either naturally low, have been carefully managed by the winemaker or have partially fallen out of suspension due to aging. Red varieties with lower tannins include Pinot Noir, Grenache, Gamay, Barbera and Corvina.
- All Red Wine
- Cabernet Sauvignon 866
- Pinot Noir 819
- Bordeaux Red Blends 739
- Other Red Blends 477
- Tempranillo 255
- Rhône Blends 219
- Sangiovese 218
- Syrah/Shiraz 176
- Malbec 174
- Merlot 151
- Nebbiolo 143
- Zinfandel 119
- Tuscan Blends 72
- Grenache 69
- Cabernet Franc 61
- Gamay 50
- Barbera 39
- Other Red Wine 28
- Petite Sirah 28
- Carmenere 26
- Montepulciano 19
- Mencia 19
- Mourvedre 18
- Dolcetto 16
- Carignan 13
- Nero d'Avola 13
- Primitivo 11
- Nerello Mascalese 11
- Pinotage 9
- Aglianico 7
- Bonarda 6
- Agiorgitiko 5
- Cinsault 4
- Corvina 4
- Negroamaro 4
- Petit Verdot 4
- Sagrantino 4
- Frappato 3
- Tannat 2
- Touriga Nacional 2
- Valdiguie 2
- Alicante Bouschet 2
- Blaufrankisch 2
- Gaglioppo 2
- Xinomavro 2
- Zweigelt 2
- Lagrein 1
- Freisa 1
- Grignolino 1
- Pais 1
- Schiava 1
- St. Laurent 1
- California 1551
- France 1044
- Italy 739
- Spain 407
- Argentina 303
- Chile 172
- Australia 153
- Washington 146
- Oregon 126
- Israel 74
- South Africa 69
- Portugal 42
- New Zealand 37
- Greece 14
- Lebanon 9
- Germany 7
- Austria 6
- Other U.S. 6
- Uruguay 4
- Macedonia (FYROM) 3
- Brazil 2
- Croatia 2
- Armenia 1
- China 1
- Country of Georgia 1
- Slovenia 1
- James Suckling 1795
- Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 1234
- Wine Enthusiast 894
- Jeb Dunnuck 814
- Wine Spectator 715
- Decanter 561
- Wilfred Wong of Wine.com 443
- Vinous 386
- Wine & Spirits 146
- Tasting Panel 85
- Burghound.com 76
- Jasper Morris 35
- Connoisseurs' Guide 23
- The Somm Journal 22
- James Halliday 4
- International Wine Cellar 1
- Whisky Advocate 1
Gift Type Any
Varietal Red Wine
Reviewed By Any
Size & Type Any
Fine Wine Any
La Nevera Garnacha Carinena 2017Grenache from Carinena, Spain
Domaine de la Beche Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2020Gamay from Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Eguren Ugarte Crianza 2018Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
Eguren Ugarte Reserva 2015Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
Clos Dalian Garnacha Crianza 2016Grenache from Terra Alta, Spain
Piccini Sasso al Poggio 2016Tuscan Blends from Tuscany, Italy
Eden Rift Terraces Pinot Noir 2018Pinot Noir from Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Chateau Pey de Pont 2015Bordeaux Red Blends from Medoc, Bordeaux, France
Consentido Monastrell Barrica 2017Mourvedre from Yecla, Spain
Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres Dorees Fleurie 2019Gamay from Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Chateau Les Gravettes Bordeaux Superieur 2016Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France
Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja Gran Reserva 2012Other Red Blends from Rioja, Spain
Adriano Marco e Vittorio Sanadaive Barbaresco 2018Nebbiolo from Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
Zeni Valpolicella 2020Other Red Blends from Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy
Domaine des Marrans Fleurie 2019Gamay from Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Sarada Calizo Garnacha 2019Grenache from Spain
Artazu Pasos de San Martin Garnacha 2016Grenache from Navarra, Spain
Bodegas Mas Alta Artigas Priorat 2017Rhone Red Blends from Priorat, Spain
Chateau Haut Gaudin Bordeaux Superieur 2018Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France
Martin Cendoya Rioja Reserva 2016Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
Chateau Trois Moulins 2016Bordeaux Red Blends from Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France
Vinos de Arganza Lagar de Robla Premium Mencia 2020Mencia from Bierzo, Spain
Proyecto Salvaje del Moncayo Garnacha 2019Grenache from Navarra, Spain
K Vintners Charlotte 2017Rhone Red Blends from Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Washington
Domaine Fagolet Morgon Le Janin 2020Gamay from Beaujolais, Burgundy, France