Red wines are a favourite with those who appreciate a strong flavour on their palettes. It is one of the oldest types of alcoholic beverages, and the healthiest among wines when consumed in moderation. The quality of red wine depends on many factors, but mainly on the region it comes from, the grape varietal it is made from, and the year of its vintage.
Each red wine is unique, and the best red wine for you will ultimately depend on your personal preference. If you prefer a wine with the most tannins, you should go for a Cabernet Sauvignon. If you prefer the taste of acidity, pick Pinot Noir. If you like full-bodied red wine, you’ll love Syrah. But if you’re looking for a red wine with high alcohol content, it’s the red Zinfandel for you.
In one of our recent posts, we listed the six best red wines based on the popularity of their varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah/ Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Malbec. But the list runs even longer, and this time we pick up the thread to describe a few more of the wine world’s favourite reds.
A staple of France’s Rhône Valley and used in wines across the world, the Grenache originates in Spain (famously, Priorat), where it is known as Garnacha. The wine is produced as a single varietal as well as a constituent of various blends with other reds like Syrah or Mourvèdre. Medium-bodied and relatively high in alcohol content, Grenache is berry-forward, with primary flavours of stewed strawberry, plum, dried herbs, white pepper, and hints of leather and blood orange. Grenache wines aren’t cheap, but most are affordable and some are quite expensive. It is a versatile wine that can be paired well with braised veal and other grilled meats, Manchego, and Asian cuisine.
Try the Old World styled Les Amoureuses Coteaux de l’Ardèche, 2018 from Ardèche, France and pair it with some tapenade or terrine and ripe cheeses.
Italy’s most widely planted wine grape produces a dry, acidic, savoury red wine. It gives us Chianti, Tuscany’s famous red blend. Because different wines using this varietal taste different, Sangiovese is referred to as Italy’s ‘chameleon’ grape. For instance, a classic Chianti will be earthy and rustic, a Montefalco Rosso is delicate and floral, while a Brunello can be dark and tannic. The dominant flavours in Sangiovese are cherry and roasted tomato, with hints of sweet balsamic, oregano, and espresso. It’s a fun and interesting wine that pairs well with spicy and acidic dishes and a wide variety of vegetables. Start easy with a Sensi Collezione Chianti or go bold with a Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino.
Spain’s top red varietal is the Tempranillo, covering about 20% of the country’s total vineyard area. It is known across the world for its popular Rioja wines. Ageing in oak is a hallmark of wines from Spain, and a good Tempranillo can be aged for over 20 years. The grape is one of many moderates; it gives us wine that is medium to full-bodied with medium to high acidity, medium to high tannin, and medium alcohol content, but lots of flavours. But in some regions like Toro and Ribera del Duero, extreme temperatures cause the wine to be more rugged, tannic, and high in alcohol.
Tempranillo is known variously as tinto fino, cencibel, and tinta de toro. It produces fresh red-fruit wines with notes of cherry, dried fig, and soft herbs like dill, tobacco and cedar. It is also a major constituent in Port blends. Aged Tempranillo pairs well with steak and lamb, while younger styles go well with pasta and tomato-based dishes.
Note that Tempranillo Riojas are savoury and full-bodied wines that pair best with rich dishes – think lamb, roasted pork, strong cheeses, and charcuterie meats. Try the La Antigua Clásico Reserva 2012 with some nutty cheeses and dried fruits.
Although one of Italy’s most important red wine varietals, Nebbiolo grapes are actually produced in many parts of the world. However, its claim to fame is the Piedmont region in Italy where it produces excellent Barolo wines with delicate aromas and strong tannins. It is a wine for those with a refined palette, and a fine vintage of Nebbiolo will cost a pretty penny. The wine ages well and rather quickly but can also be consumed young and fresh. It carries bold notes of cherry, rose, star anise, and hints of leather and clay. The strong acidity and tannins lead to a favourable pairing with fatty, creamy dishes and cheeses – try a truffle risotto for an elegant pairing.
Barolo wines were deemed to be ‘the wine of kings’ in 19th-century Italy. It is a bold and flavourful red with a full body, despite its pale colour. Try the dry and earthy 2016 Massolino Margheria Barolo DOCG, good for ageing until 2040.