Know the 

8 POPULAR RED GRAPES

Here are the most popular red wine grape varieties used in winemaking today. No matter where the wine comes from, certain characteristics are associated with these varieties. Use this as a guide to predict the taste of wine and buy or order wines at a restaurant.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

< Ca-burr-nay So-veen-yawn >

BIG & BOLD

Often known as the ‘King of grapes’ Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most-planted red grape variety, full-bodied and worthy of aging. Just like your friends from school, it mellows with age. Powerful, complex, layered and balanced may be the best way to describe a Cabernet but this grape can also produce some cheerful, inexpensive wines.

 

If you like Cabernet, try Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo or Malbec-Cabernet.

Goes well with

Foods that are high in fat like red meat and umami flavors; charred gruyere cheese burger, marinated ribeye steak, braised short ribs, mushroom pizza with tomato sauce, mushroom stroganoff.

Notable regions

France (Bordeaux’s left bank), Chile, USA, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Argentina, India.

PINOT NOIR

< Pee-know Nwahr >

DELICATE & SILKY

‘Temperamental but with a great personality’, may be the best way to define Pinot Noir. Growing Pinot Noir is hard work – it demands a cool climate and great care - but when done well it can produce graceful, elegant wines that offer a sublime drinking experience. No wonder Pinot Noir is used to make some of the world’s greatest and highly priced red wines whose perfumed aromas evolve with age. Overall, it is a perfect wine to pick when everyone in a restaurant orders a variety of dishes.

 

If you like Pinot Noir, try wines made from St. Laurent or Zweigelt grapes.

Goes well with

Light seafood and grilled meaty fish (salmon, shark, swordfish), chicken, richer red meats and ducks, Italian style pasta with tomato sauce and any dish that features mushrooms as the main flavor element. But go easy on the spices.

Notable regions

France (especially Burgundy), USA, Germany, Italy, Argentina, South Africa, Chile, New Zealand, Australia.

TEMPRANILLO

< Temp-rah-nee-yo >

VIBRANT & EARTHY

Tempranillo’s homeland is Spain, where it produces one of the country’s most famous wine – Rioja. It is a diverse red wine grape capable of yielding wines of many styles – from light, fresh, fruity, easy drinking styles to more elegant wines with loads of complexity and aging potential, similar to a Cabernet.

 

One may find Tempranillo’s taste profile similar to Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Goes well with

Spanish foods like tacos, nachos, burritos, and tapas; barbequed or grilled meats, smoked dishes, pizza, lasagna, and dishes with tomato-based sauces.

Notable regions

Spain, Portugal, Argentina, USA, Australia.

MALBEC

< Mahl-bek >

FLAVORFUL & FRUITY

Born in France but rose to stardom in Argentina. In fact, this red grape is now so popular in Argentina that they have a ‘Malbec World Day’ dedicated to it. Malbec’s expression greatly varies depending on where it is grown although it is always rich and flavorful. Somewhere in between a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, this is a food friendly wine and definitely a crowd-pleaser.

 

If you like Malbec, chances are you'll also like Shiraz, Merlot or Carménère.

Goes well with

Foods with big flavors like grilled or barbequed meats and sausages, braised or stewed dishes, macaroni and cheese, burgers, lasagna, burritos and hard cheeses.

Notable regions

Argentina, Chile, Australia, USA, France (to a lesser extent).

SANGIOVESE

< San-gee-oh-vay-say >

AROMATIC & FRUITY

Sangiovese is one of Italy’s most famous and probably most beloved red grape variety, mostly used to form the base of many wines, notably Chianti. It makes wines that vary in quality from ordinary to superb and seems strongly affected by its environment, more than most varieties. In some ways, Sangiovese is to Chianti as Cabernet Sauvignon is to Bordeaux.

 

If you like Sangiovese chances are you'll also like Tempranillo or Zinfandel.

Goes well with

Italian foods with herbs and tomato like pasta or pizza, rich roasted meat, cured sausages, Buttered or roasted vegetables, and hard or aged cheeses.

Notable regions

Italy, Argentina, USA, Romania, Australia, Chile.

ZINFANDEL

< Zin-fan-del >

DISTINCTIVE & VERSATILE

Commonly referred to as ‘zin’ this red grape originated in Croatia but went on to become America’s darling. Its genetic twin Primitivo can be found in Italy. It is a versatile grape, which produces an array of wines ranging from fresh, fruity, easygoing wines, through fuller flavored wines with noticeable spiciness, to powerful, rich wines. Zinfandel is also used to make light-pink rosé wines also known as ‘white zinfandel’. Even if they exhibit different characters be assured that Zinfandel wines will be fulfilling. It is also a perfect cookout wine.

 

If you enjoy 'Zin', try Grenache, Syrah or Sangiovese.

Goes well with

Chips and dips, grilled burgers, sausages or chicken, spicy or savory curries, vegetables that have strong flavors of tomato, red pepper, caramelized or grilled onions. 

Notable regions

USA, Italy, India.

MERLOT

< Mer-low >

SMOOTH & VELVETY

Consider Merlot as Cabernet Sauvignon’s gentler, approachable cousin. They share many common flavors but Merlot tends to be softer than Cabernet and is exceptionally easy-to-drink making it a great introduction into the world of red wines. It is used to produce two different styles of wines: can be fruity, easy to drink, and designed to be drunk young, or it can be intense, complex and capable of long aging. Thus, when it comes to Merlot there is certainly something for everyone.

 

If you like Merlot, chances are you'll also like Malbec or Syrah.

Goes well with

A wide range of foods, from chicken and light meats to lightly spiced dark meats, to dishes that uses a strong cheese.

Notable regions

France (especially Bordeaux), Italy, USA, Chile, Argentina, Australia and India.

SHIRAZ/SYRAH

< Shi-raaz/ See-rah >

POWERFUL & SPICY

A grape that has two names; known as Shiraz in the New World and Syrah in France. No matter by which name you call it, Shiraz/Syrah sounds exotic and regal. And it tastes just the same. This grape variety is capable of making a wide range of wine styles depending on where it is grown - all rich, complex and distinctive. A great wine to bring to a barbeque.

 

If you enjoy Shiraz, chances are you'll also like Malbec, Pinotage, Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Sirah.

Goes well with

Bold, flavorful foods, especially slow grilled or roasted meats spiced with clove and anise, lean steaks, duck, Middle Eastern foods. 

Notable regions

France (especially Rhône Valley), Australia, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, USA, Italy, Chile, India.

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