7 Varieties of Red Wine

So I have already covered white wines in the last post “7 Varieties of White Wine” and now it’s time for the reds. I drink more red wine than white wine (wow that sounds like something an alcoholic would say) so when it comes to talking about red wine, I have a lot more to say to my guests.

You may have noticed that red wines have a higher pricing point in comparison to white wines (generally speaking), this is because of a few reasons:

  • The winemaker has to do more work to produce red wine.
  • Red wine is usually put into oak barrels, which don’t have a small price tag.
  • Red wine normally is aged longer than most whites (yet there are whites that get aged for long periods too)
  • There can be more work to put in during the fermentation period for red wine.

So with that said let’s go onto the list of 7 varieties of red wine, they include:

  1. Barbera
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. Malbec
  4. Merlot
  5. Pinot Noir
  6. Sangiovese
  7. Shiraz/Syrah


(Bar-bear-a) This wine is similar to the Merlot variety (which is below) and is a common wine from Italy and found throughout California.

Flavors: Dark fruits like plum and black cherry with solid acidity to it.

Food pairing: Barbera is pretty versatile, it’s a good drinking wine without food, but goes great with tomato-based dishes.

Cabernet Sauvignon

(Ca-burr-nay sov-een-yawn) Known as one of the world’s best varieties and is commonly blended with Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It is typically a medium to full-bodied red.

Flavors: Blackcurrant, chocolate, tobacco, mint with some earthiness to it. Depending on the region it can have mild earthy notes or stronger (like from my homeland of Australia).

Food pairing: Red meat is Cabernet Sauvignon’s best dish to pair with.


(Mal-Bek) Malbec is commonly blended with other varieties but is also a stand-alone wine. It is one of the six varieties that’s allowed to be blended with Bordeaux wine. Due to its thin skin, it can be sensitive to weather, especially frost.

Flavors: Berries and plum is the most stand out flavors of Malbec, with a little spice to it.

Food pairing: This blend is for all meat dishes, Mexican and Indian dishes go well also if you choose to drink a red with these styles of cooking.


(Mer-low) A great starting point for people who are new to drinking red wine. A medium-bodied wine which usually gets blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to help soften it up, due to its low tannins.

Flavors: Common flavors include plum, blackberry, strawberry, red currant with some herbal notes.

Food pairing: Take your pick, Merlot is such a versatile wine that it pretty well goes with anything, even without food. If I were to choose anything I would say it goes well with a dish that has a rich sauce with it.

Pinot Noir

(Pee-no-nwahr) If someone wants something light and fresh, this would be a great suggestion for you to give.

Flavors: Fruity flavors including strawberry, cherry, and plum.

Food pairing: Goes great with chicken, lamb, grilled salmon, and Japanese style dishes.


(San-gee-oh-vay-zee) Once again a wine from the region of Tuscany and some newer wines from California. This is a medium-bodied wine.

Flavors: Fresh berry and plum flavors.

Food pairing: Typically goes well with something like a Mediterranean or Italian style dish.


(Shi-razz) (See-rah) Don’t let the two names fool you, they are the same variety but in Europe, they call it Syrah. Some great Shiraz/Syrah comes from California, Australia, and France. This is my favorite full-bodied wine.

Flavors: Black pepper, blackcurrant, blackberry, chocolate. Basically a combination of dark fruits with a nice spice to it.

Food pairing: Red meats, braised meats, and hearty stews.

So there is a breakdown of 7 common varieties of red wine. Hopefully, this will give you a better idea to help nail down what type of wine your guests will enjoy. If someone is unsure what they want then asking a few qualifying questions to your guests can help you pick out the best one for them. Questions like:

  1. Do you prefer some lighter or something more full-bodied?
  2. Would you like something to go with your meal? or just to drink?
  3. What do you normally drink?

The answers you get from these questions can help cut out certain varieties and blends which will allow you to then make some suggestions.

Some other posts I wrote that relate to this topic are:

“How Wine Is Made” and “7 Varieties of White Wine”

Thanks, have a great day and enjoy your week.