Dry Red Wine Types

Karen Frazier
red wine

Dry reds are a popular choice of wine drinkers around the world. While there are hundreds of dry red varietals from wine regions across the globe, several are among the most well-known and widely consumed. These are the reds you are most likely to find on grocery store shelves.

Popular Types of Dry Red Wine

What makes a dry red popular? The wine's accessibility and drinkability are extremely important, as is its versatility in food pairing. Collectors also like wines that have aging potential, with a firm structure of tannins that soften with years of careful cellaring. Other wine drinkers prefer wines with integrated tannins and lush fruits that can be served while the wine is still relatively youthful.

The most popular dry red wines come from regions all around the world.

Bordeaux-Style Wines

These lush, structured, tannic reds contain grape varietals found in France's Bordeaux wines, although they come from skilled winemakers all around the world. The main grapes found in Bordeaux-style wines include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Malbec
  • Petit Verdot
  • Carménère

These wines are typically tannic and complex with a core of dark fruits. Flavors and aromas in the wine include dark cherry, leather, tobacco, and stone fruits. Many Bordeaux-style wines age well because of the tight tannic core. These wines pair well with steak and other fatty red meats.

You can find these wines produced in regions around the world. Notable producers of Bordeaux-style reds include:

  • Bordeaux
  • California
  • Tuscany
  • South America
  • Washington State

Rhone-Style Wines

These wines utilize grapes commonly found in wines produced in France's Rhone region. Commonly used grapes include:

  • Grenache
  • Syrah
  • Mouvedre
  • Viognier (a white grape blended into the reds in small amounts to enhance fragrance)
  • Marsanne
  • Roussanne
  • Cinsaut

Rhone-style wines tend to be highly fragrant, spicy and smoky with bold fruit flavors. Flavors and aromas include smoked meats, peppers, stone fruits, nutmeg, cherries, and spices. These wines are delicious and accessible. Depending on the tannic core, many age well but also drink beautifully in their youth. Rhone-style wines pair well with smoked and cured meats (ham and bacon), game meats, dark meat poultry, and braises.

Along with the Rhone region, you can find fine examples of these wines from the following regions:

  • Australia
  • Priorat, Spain
  • Washington State
  • California

Burgundy-Style Wines

Burgundian reds use a single grape: Pinot Noir. Wines made from Pinot Noir can be smooth and silky or powerful and unctuous, depending on the region in which the grapes are grown and the style of the winemaker. These earthy wines contain flavors and aromas of dark cherries, tobacco, mushrooms, and berries. The wines age relatively well in spite of soft, well-integrated tannins. The wines pair well with salmon. mushrooms, lamb, duck, and dark meat poultry.

Two regions outside of Burgundy excel at Pinot Noir: California and Oregon. You can also find good Pinot Noirs from New Zealand and Australia.

Zinfandel

This zesty, full-bodied, powerful wine is a New World favorite. With lush berry, jam and pepper flavors and aromas, these wines contain a high alcohol content that packs a punch. Zinfandel pairs well with red sauces, baked pasta dishes like lasagna, and pizza. California produces some of the world's best Zinfandels, but you can also find the grape in Italy's rustic Primitivo wines.

Sangiovese

Best known as the grape in Italy's Chianti, Sangiovese is gaining popularity among New World wine producers, as well. Sangiovese is medium-bodied and fruity, with flavors and aromas of violets, plums, and cherries. Often, wines from this grape varietal have a tart finish. They pair well with pastas with red sauce, pizza, and red meat braises. Examples of Sangiovese include Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscans. You can also find Sangiovese varietals from California and Washington State.

More Dry Reds

There are many other types of dry red wines that are notable and worth trying:

  • Nebbiolo (found in Italy's Barolo and Barbaresco)
  • Tempranillo (found in Spanish Riojas)
  • Barbera
  • Gamay (found in Beaujolais)
  • Petite Sirah

Enjoying Dry Red Wines

With so many varieties and flavor profiles for dry red wines, finding your favorite is often a matter of trial and error. If you've sampled a few and haven't yet discovered one you enjoy, keep trying. So many different styles exist that it is a matter of finding the one that suits your taste buds and your budget.

Dry Red Wine Types