Types of Red Wine

Learn the best shape glass for red wine.
Learn the best shape glass for red wine.

There are a lot of different types of red wine outside of Cabernet and Merlot.

The Most Popular Types of Red Wine

Cabernet and Merlot are, of course, among the main varietals of red wine. They are also two of the most popular. Here is the full list of main varietals of red wine:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon - One of the best selling varietals of red wine in the United States. Cabs are generally big, full bodied and tannic.
  • Merlot - These medium-bodied wines are less tannic than Cabernets.
  • Pinot Noir - This red wine is growing very quickly in popularity and is right on the heels of Cabernet and Merlot. Pinots are typically medium to light bodied with a soft tannic structure.
  • Syrah (Shiraz) - Syrahs have great forward fruit flavors with a hint of pepper and spice.
  • Zinfandel - Zins run the gamut in flavor characteristics and range from big and hearty to light and delicate.

Other Types of Red Wine

Not the most popular of all the red wines available, but equally delicious. So, when you tire of Cab and get bored with Merlot, try giving one of these reds a try:

Italian Reds

  • Sangiovese - This red wine is more on the earthy side in flavor characteristics with medium tannins and high acidity.
  • Chianti - Arguably the most well known of the Italian wines. Chianti is actually a wine region and not a grape. The wine is made from a blend of grapes including: Sangiovese, Caniolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia.
  • Barolo - These are the biggest and boldest of Italian reds. Tannin levels are high and a little rough for young Barolos but soften with age.
  • Amarone - Another big-bodied wine out of Italy, Amrone is typically dry with a low acid content.
  • Barbera - A light to medium bodied red that is a bit fruitier in flavor characteristics than other Italian offerings.
  • Lambrusco - Light bodied and fizzy, Lambrusco is a sweet tasting Italian red.
  • Montepulciano - Medium bodied with dark red fruit flavors with slightly vegetal overtones.
  • Valpolicella - Dry red wine with low tannins, Valpolicellas are sometimes described as lean, meaning they are slightly lacking in fruit flavor characteristics.

French Reds

  • Bordeaux - Red Bordeauxs coming out of one of the best-known wine regions in the world are rich and complex. Look for Bordeaux labeled with the specific regions of: Pomerol, Saint-Emillion, Medoc, Graves and Sauternes. Sauternes though is known for its white wines.
  • Burgundy - French red Burgundies are complex and have flavors of ripe dark berries.
  • Beaujolais - Forward fruity flavors and medium to light bodied.

Spanish Reds

  • Rioja - These are medium bodied red wines with hints of vanilla.
  • Garnacha (Grenache) - A very sweet red wine full of bright, forward fruit with low tannins.

About the List

The red wines listed above are only the most common red wines particular to each country or the wines in which the country is famous for producing. All of the countries listed above, include ones not listed, like the United States and Australia, produce all of the most popular types of red wine such as:

  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Syrah
  • Petite Syrah
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Pinot Noir

California, for example, is well known for its Cabernet, but not world renowned, as France is for its Bordeaux or Italy is for its Barolo. Australia is the only country that produces Shiraz and while it does have slightly different flavor characteristics than Syrah, it is arguably the same wine.

Be Open to New Tastes

When looking for a perfect bottle of red wine, be open to trying a little bit of everything. Try a Cabernet from Italy or a Pinot Noir from Spain. These wines may not be the most famous or popular from Italy or Spain but that doesn't necessarily mean they are bad wines. So, be open to new tastes and trying new things, you never know what hidden gem you will uncover.

Types of Red Wine