Dry red wines are a sophisticated bunch. Their complexity evokes a whole range of flavors that picking the right one to pair with specific food can be a complicated decision.
To help you, we have listed six of our favorite types of dry red wine, along with recommended bottles for you to try. Enjoy!
Cabernet sauvignon is grown in a wide range of climates all over the world, and so can have a variety of different flavors. However, the best cabs are very hearty and boast warm, oaky, spicy flavors.
They’re beautifully full-bodied, and can have savory tastes like bell and black pepper, while also being sharp and sometimes a little bitter.
Major Regions: France, Chile, United States, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Argentina
Cabernet Sauvignon Taste Profile: Black cherry, black currant and blackberryOther: black pepper, tobacco, licorice, vanilla and violet
Alcohol Content: 13.5-15.5%
Pest Paired With: Red meats, bitter greens, brie, cheddar
Why Not Try: Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon
Pinot Noir grapes date back to the Roman era, and has remained popular for good reason: Its light-to-medium nature matches a wide spectrum of foods, which makes pairing it with meals simple. If you’re out with friends and everyone orders different entrees, your best bet to make everyone happy is to order Pinot Noir for the table.
It’s light enough to match creamy and salmon dishes, but also complex enough to complement dark meats. The perfect failsafe option.
Major Regions: Argentina, California, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Oregon
Pinot Noir Taste Profile: Cranberry, cherry, raspberry, licorice, cola, mushroom, vanilla, clove, wet leaves, tobacco, caramel
Alcohol Content: 11-14%
Best Paired With: Grilled salmon, chicken, lamb, sushi, creamy sauces, spicy food, salmon, tomatoes
Why Not Try: Astro Costera Santa Macarena Pinot Noir 2015
Red fruits, easy tannins and a soft finish are the characteristics of this popular wine. Merlot has smooth flavor and hints of plums, currants and other berries, and its low acid content makes it ideal for people who don’t like strong red wines. The varietal pairs well with an eclectic mix of foods including steak, lamb, tuna steak and cheese.
In short, it goes with almost anything.
Major Regions: France, Italy, California, Washington, Australia, Chile
Merlot Taste Profile: Black cherry, raspberry, plum, graphite, cedar, tobacco, vanilla, clove, mocha
Alcohol Content: 12-15%
Best Paired With: Anything
Why Not Try: Montes Single Vineyard Merlot 2015
Sangiovese is a savory-tasting wine, boasting a wide range of tastes, from fruity to earthy. However, regardless of where it’s grown, it always exhibits cherry flavors with more subtle notes of tomato.
The most popular Sangioveses always manage to strike a balance between their fruit and earth components. If you do manage to get something in between the two, then you’ll find that it goes superbly with most Mediterranean or Italian dishes.
Major Regions: Italy, Corsica, Argentina, California, Washington, Romania, Australia, Chile
Sangiovese Taste Profile: Tart cherry, red plum, strawberry, fig, tomato, leather, roasted pepper, smoke, oregano, thyme, clay, brick, tobacco, dried roses, potpourri
Alcohol Content: 12%
Best Paired With: Italian and other Mediterranean-style cuisines
Why Not Try: Il COlle 2012 Brunello di Montalcino
Tempranillo is a medium-to-full-bodied wine not too dissimilar to Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon. It comes with a fairly broad range of flavors, depending on whether its an Old World or New World vintage. Regardless of which one you go for, it pairs brilliantly with a lot of different food types.
Spanish vintages sometimes have a mild and smooth taste of leather mixed with cherries, while American and Argentinian Tempranillos tend to deliver beautifully crafted cherry and tomato flavors.
A good Tempranillo will taste full-bodied and with a hint of new oak aging, although it does appear a little lighter in color when compared to other full-bodied wines, like Shiraz. It manages to maintain a big flavor without ever feeling too heavy.
Major Regions: Spain, Portugal, USA, Australia
Tempranillo Taste Profile: Cherry, plum and tomato, leather, tobacco, vanilla, clove
Alcohol Content: 13-14.5%
Best Paired With: Lasagna, pizza, grits, polenta, tacos, nachos
Why Not Try: La La Land Tempranillo 2015
Syrah and Shiraz are some of the darkest full-bodied red wines in the world. They have dark fruit flavors, ranging from blueberry to black olive, and pair well with barbecue, Mexican dishes, and beef.
Its taste starts with something punchy before tailing off to a spicy and peppery note that lingers a little after. Because of this front-loaded style, Syrah is often blended with other grapes that help offer a little more mid-palate and overall make the wine taste a little more complete and well-rounded.
Major Regions: France, Australia, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, USA, Italy, Chile
Syrah Taste Profile: Blackberry, blueberry and boysenberryOther: olive, pepper, clove, vanilla, mint, licorice, chocolate
Alcohol Content: 14-20%
Best Paired With: Steak, beef, wild game, stews
Why Not Try: Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2015
All color graphics courtesy of Wine Folly