With so many red wines available from winemakers around the world, it can be really difficult to know whether you are choosing a good one just by looking at bottles on the shelves in the wine shop. Fortunately, there is plenty of help available, and with a little knowledge and information, you can choose red wines like a pro.
Recommendations for the Best Red Wine
With so many excellent red wines to choose from in all price and varietal categories, the list below is far from comprehensive. With that in mind, consider the following "best" wines the next time you hit the wine shop.
Excellent Reds Under $20
- Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel: This spicy California Zin comes from one of the state's top Zinfandel producers. Consistently good, the 2010 received a 90-point rating from Wine Spectator and 93 points from Wine Enthusiast.
- Evodia Old Vines Grenache: Smoky and juicy, this Spanish Grenache is a popular choice for under $10. The 2010 vintage got a 90 point rating from Wine Enthusiast.
- La Carraia Sangiovese Umbria: This wine is a rich and lush, with flavors of dark cherries. It consistently gets upper 80s and lower 90s ratings from Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate. He rated the 2009 vintage 90 points.
- Black Box Merlot: These are widely recognized as some of the higher quality boxed wine offerings. Black Box Merlot has nice plum and berry flavors with very soft tannins. Along with being very affordable, Black Box received the Top 100 Best Buy Award from Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2008. It was ranked #12 of 100.
Excellent Reds - $21 to $50
- Casaeda Cabernet Sauvignon: Well structured with flavors of cherry and chocolate, this Cab is juicy and delicious. The Wine Insiders liked the 2009 vintage of this Cabernet Sauvignon so much they gave it 93 points.
- L'ecole No. 41 Merlot Seven Hills Vineyard: This Washington winemaker does a great job with all of their wines. With flavors of plums and soft tannins, the Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot consistently receives 90+ point ratings. In fact, Robert Parker rated the 2008 vintage 90 points in The Wine Advocate.
- Turley Zinfandel Duarte Vineyard: Turley is one of the most respected winemakers in California, and this wine doesn't disappoint. It is smooth and spicy with the flavor of red fruits. Wine Spectator loved the 2007 vintage of this wine, giving it 93 points.
- Vietti Barolo di Castiglione Falletto: Like all Barolos, this is a powerhouse meant to age. With flavors of chocolate and red fruits, this Barolo has a strong backbone of tannins. Barolo can be breathtakingly expensive, so to find a high rated bottle for under $50 is a real steal. Robert Parker really liked the 2007 vintage of this wine, giving it 93 points in The Wine Advocate. It's rare to see a rating under 90 points in any vintage.
Excellent Reds - $50+
- Joseph Phelps Insignia: This is one of California's most well-known wines. It is a Bordeaux blend (predominately Cabernet Sauvignon) with flavors of chocolate and licorice. It is considered highly collectible and often garners spectacular ratings in the mid to upper 90s. Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate gave the 2008 vintage 97 points.
- Penfolds Grange: Considered one of Australia's premier wines, this Rhone style wine is predominately Syrah. With solid structure and a juicy core of fruits, the collectible red often approaches perfection. Robert Parker gave the 2005 version 97 points in The Wine Advocate.
- Clos Erasmus "Laurel" Priorat: Made with smoky Garnacha, this Priorat tastes of black cherries. It consistently receives 90+ point ratings and generally costs around $50. The 2009 vintage received a Robert Parker 94 point rating.
- Beaux Freres Beaux Freres Vineyard Pinot Noir: This Pinot is concentrated with dark cherry flavors and a hint of earthiness. With consistently good powerhouse Pinot Noirs, Beaux Freres receives great ratings across the board for all of their wines. Those from the Beaux Freres Vineyard are no exception. The 2009 vintage received a Wine Spectator 93 point rating.
How to Find Your Favorite Red
Since taste is subjective, there really is no "best" red wine. What there are, however, are great wines that please your individual palate and fit within your budget. One great way to find wines that are the best for you, then, is to know what you like. When finding wines you find to be the best, consider the following.
For many, budget is one of the most important factors in selecting wines, and with good reason. Wine can range in price from under $5 per bottle to hundreds or even thousands of dollars! While some people won't bat an eye at drinking a $100 bottle of wines, others are more comfortable if their wine doesn't cost more than $10 to $20 per bottle. The good news is that, with so many great winemakers from all around the world, you'll find wonderful examples of red wines in all budget ranges. So, before you head out to choose a really good bottle of wine, decide how much you are willing to spend.
Varietal, Blend, and Characteristics
There are many varieties of red wine grapes, each with their own flavor and aroma profiles. Some wines are made with close to 100 percent of the juice of a certain varietal, while other wines may be a blend of multiple types of grapes. For example, Bordeaux wines from France are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and other grapes, while Burgundy wines from France are made from Pinot Noir grapes. Red wines may be labeled with the name of the varietal, the name of the region, or even given a special name for the blend, so a little research may be necessary to determine the grapes in the wine. With that being said, some popular red wine grapes include:
|Grape Varietal||Wines That Contain It||Characteristics|
|Cabernet Sauvignon||Bordeaux, Meritage, Super Tuscans||Tannic and powerful; good aging potential; flavors of green peppers, black currant|
|Merlot||Bordeaux, Meritage, Super Tuscans||Soft and lush; moderate aging potential; flavors of plums, chocolates and berries|
|Syrah/Shriaz||Rhone, Hermitage, Cote Rhotie||Moderately tannic, often fruit forward; spicy and lush with jammy flavors; often contains hints of leather and smoke|
|Grenache/Garnacha||Priorat, Chateauneuf-du-pape||Moderately tannic with a fleshy mouthfeel; flavors of earth, smoke, and blackberries with a hint of spice|
|Pinot Noir||Burgundy, Champagne||Well structured and tannic with good aging potential; often earthy and soft with flavors of leather, tobacco, and plums|
|Zinfandel||Zinfandel||High alcohol and deep red; spicy and powerful with raspberry and peppers|
|Petite Sirah||Petite Sirah||Full-bodied and fleshy; spicy and rich with powerful black pepper flavors|
|Sangiovese||Chianti, Brunello||Medium-bodied and acidic; floral and berry flavors|
|Nebbiolo||Barolo, Barbaresco||Powerful and tannic; flavors of blackberry, cherry, and licorice|
While there are many other red wine grapes, with knowledge of the characteristics, it becomes easier to pick out the red wine you may enjoy the most.
Of course, knowing what you like can also lead you to expert help. Talk to your local wine shop proprietor, providing him or her with your budget and flavor characteristics you like and he or she is likely to lead you to the perfect wine! You can also use wine rating sources such as RobertParker.com and Wine Spectator to find good bottles of wine.
The best way to know what you like in a wine is to go out and taste wine! Many wine shops and wineries offer free or minimal fee tastings, which will allow you to select the best red wines to suit your palate. After you've tasted a variety of wines, it will be far easier to assess the best red wines for you.