The Major Types of Red Wine

The Major Types  of  Red Wine

Aloha, Karina here.  As you know, grapevines are classified into several major types, or cultivars (cultivated varieties), according to their principal grape type. 

In this post, we'll look at (most of) the major types of red wine available today, so - let's get started! 

Here's a list of the major types of red wine with examples:

1) Merlot

The most widely planted red wine grape in the world. It produces medium-bodies wines that are rich and fruity, with blackcurrant flavors. Think Bordeaux!

2) Cabernet Sauvignon

Produces "big" bodied wines with moderate tannins and high acidity making them very food-friendly. They often display aromas of violets, cassis, plums and chocolate. Château Lafite-Rothschild is one example of this grape.

3) Pinot Noir

Grown mostly in the Burgundy region of France, this grape is responsible for some of the finest wines in the world. It has very low tannins making it easy to drink, but it can be delicate and flimsy if not blended with other grapes or made into a fortified wine like Port or Sauternes.

It's able to produce light-bodied wines ranging from light reds to dark "black" wines. Some examples are Château Puy-Blanquet, Clos de Tart, and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis.

4) Syrah (aka Shiraz)

One of my personal favorites!

The best Syrah is found in Rhone Valley in France, Australia, and the Pacific Northwest. Syrah is used to produce full-bodied reds with spicy berry flavors. They are best when aged 10 years or more. Some examples are Hermitage La Chapelle, Cheval Blanc and Cote Rotie- L'Hermitage .

5) Grenache

Another favorite of mine! These grapes produce rich, smooth wines that are easy to drink young with high fruitiness and low acid levels. Château de Fonsalette is an example of this grape variety.

6) Sangiovese

This grape is mainly found in central Italy where it makes many different types of wines ranging from dry to sweet. The flavors that you may find when tasting include cherry, plum, raspberry, and often bell pepper flavors too! Some examples are Antinori's Tignanello , Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino or Fattoria dei Barbi Chianti .

7) Tannat

A lesser-known French grape that produces similar wines to Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a very full-bodied red wine with high tannin levels and low acidity making it very food-friendly. Some examples of Tannat wines are Madiran and Château de Lascaux.

8) Zinfandel

This popular California grape produces rich, meaty reds full of spicy flavors like pepper, clove, and cherry. Zin's also come in sweet "dessert" varieties too!

In Napa Valley, it is sometimes blended with Petite Syrah to produce great full-bodied wines. The best Zinfandels come from Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, and Howell Mountain AVA's.

9) Nero d'Avola

This red grape originates from Sicily but is found throughout Italy today. It produces dark, rich wines with jammy fruit flavors like blueberry and blackberry along with high tannin levels. Some examples are Cerasuolo di Vittoria (a region in Sicily) or Etna Rosso (Etna is a volcano here).

10) Agiorgitiko

Not exactly one of the "biggest" players in the red wine game; however it does make some great wines! It makes wines that are medium-bodied and full flavored with dark fruit flavors like blackberry and plum. Some examples include Nemea or Agioritikos Patras .

11) Barbera

This is one of the most popular red grapes in Italy, especially in the Piedmont region. It produces light to medium wines with low tannins and high acid levels making them very food-friendly. They typically have ripe fruity flavors like raspberry, cherry, and strawberry along with aromas of roses and tobacco. Typical Piedmont examples include Bricco dell'Uccellone , Cascina Francia and Ceretto Langhe Monregalesi .

12) Blaufrankisc

A grape grown predominantly in Austria, it is also found in Central Europe. The wines are dark, tannic, and have anise flavors. Some examples are Loibner Federspiel , Stadlmann Knoll or Prager Stammerskirchen .

13) Carignan

Grown mostly in the southern Rhone Valley region of France, this full-bodied wine is rich with berry flavors. It is a great food wine because of its high acid levels and low tannins making them very food-friendly. A classic example of a Carignan wine would be Château de Saint Cosme.

14) Chatus (aka Petit Verdot)

These small grapes produce big wines! They have medium to high tannin levels and produce wines that are deep, dark in color with flavors of black currant, cedar, and graphite. Some examples are Margaux , Petit Verdot de Macon Villages or Château Ferran .

15) Gamay

Grown mostly in the Beaujolais region of France, this light-bodied wine is fruity with high acidity. They have raspberry flavors along with aromas of orange blossoms and honey. The best Beaujolais wines come from Morgon AOC , Moulin-a-Vent AOC or Fleurie AOC .

16) Nebbiolo

This grape is mainly found in the northern region of Italy. It produces wines with flavors that are very tannic and would require many years to mellow out. They also have aromas of tar, roses, plums, and cherries. You will sometimes find green bell pepper or white truffle aromas too! They are best drunk after one to five years of aging depending on how high quality it is. Not many people can wait that long! The two most well-known examples are Barolo, Piedmont's "King", and Barbaresco, Piedmont's "Queen". *You may read about a wine called "Brunello di Montalcino" in menus and wine shops. This is a specific type of Nebbiolo grape. It's wines are similar to Barbaresco or Barolo, but they can be made slightly less tannic if the winemaker reduces the alcoholic fermentation before it is completed. Otherwise, they will have super high tannins!

17) Primitivo

Primitivo wines come mainly from Apulia region in Italy, but it is also grown in Croatia too. It has dark fruit flavors like plum, figs, and dates with medium to high acidity making them very food-friendly!

The best examples are Salice Salentino DOC , Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva , Contesa Lizz Negroamaro or Carso Malvasia IGT .

18) Petite Sirah

Grown mainly in California, New Zealand, and Australia, Petit Sirah makes full-bodied wines with blackberry flavors. The best examples are Stonestreet Estate, E & J Gallo's Blackpoint, or Taurino Cosi.

The Petit Sirah/Durif wines are big, tannic wines with plenty of blackberry fruit.

The grape can produce wines with some similarities to Zinfandel, but they tend to stand alone as a distinctive style. Here's a quick comparison:

ZINFANDEL: a little lighter in color, good acidity gives good balance, can be rich and spicy

PETIT SIRAH: a little darker in color, not as acidic--can have a fuller body, intense blackberry flavors.

19) Pinotage

This is a great food wine because of its medium to high tannin levels! It has flavors that are very unique including scents of graphite, pencil lead, and ripe fruit.

It originates from South Africa so you can find some examples there like Rustenberg Stellenbosch, Mulderbosch, or Beyerskloof Private Bin.

20) Tempranillo

This is an extremely popular grape in Spain. The wines are medium-bodied with high acidity levels making them very food-friendly.

They have raspberry flavors along with notes of tobacco, vanilla, and herbs. Some examples are Campo Viejo Reserva , La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva or Muga Reserva .

21) Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo

These grapes are found in the northern region of Portugal. The wines have ripe fruit flavors along with aromas of cocoa, leather, and herbs. Some examples are Familia Falca o Herdade da Malhadinha Nova , Quinta do Crasto Douro or Caves Messias Alvarinho . **Tinta Cao is another grape that is common in Portugal, but it can't be labeled as "Tempranillo".

22) Zweigelt

This is a cross between Blaufrankisch  and St. Laurent. They typically produce full-bodied wines with flavors of boysenberry, black cherry, and plum. Some examples are Schloss Gobelsburg , Heiligenstein or Kremser Land Gruner Veltliner .

23) Cabernet Franc

You can find this grape in both dry and sweet wines. It is great for aging because it has medium tannins (from one to five years) along with high acidity levels (one to three years). The flavors that the grape produces include fruity scents like raspberry, strawberry, and blackcurrant. You will sometimes find black pepper or green bell pepper flavors too. Some great examples are Mouton Cadet , Domaine de Faugeres or Chateau de St. Cosme .

24) Malbec

This is a very popular grape in Argentina. The wines are dark-colored with blueberry flavors along with notes of black pepper, blackberry, raspberry, and flowers. Some examples are Alamos , Finca La Linda or Remolinos Altos .

25) Mourvedre

This is the same grape as "Monastrell" that I discussed above under Spain's "Garnacha". It tends to produce dry reds with tannins ranging from medium to high depending on how long it ages.

It has aromas of pencil lead, warm earth, prune, and dried herbs along with blackberry flavors. If you find one without too much tannin it can be enjoyed sooner! Two examples are Chateau St Michelle Columbia Valley, or Diageo's Round Hill.

25) Tempranillo

This is the same grape as Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo that I list further below. These wines are full-bodied with tannins ranging from medium to high (one to five years). They also have aromas of raspberry, plum, and flowers with flavors like blueberry, blackberry, and pepper.

Most of these wines come from Spain. Some examples are Lopez de Heredia Viña Bosconia , La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza or Muga Reserva .

26) Corvina

This grape is mainly found in northern Italy where it makes medium-bodied wines with flavors of cherry, herb, strawberry, and hints of tar.

They would need one to eight years before they have low enough tannins for the average person to handle! Some examples are Masi's Valpolicella Ripasso , Conti Sertoli Salis Pinot Grigio or Tenuta Sant'Anna Valpolicella .

In Closing

In closing, I hope that I have inspired you to be a bit more adventurous when ordering wines.

There are many great options out there, and they may end up being your new favorites!

If you do order one that turns out to not be your favorite, please don't give up on the wine or winemaker simply because of a "bad day".

In general, if it's a well-known style, try another bottle from another year before deciding not to enjoy their wines.

Also, remember that sometimes it can take years before a vineyard reaches its "prime" in terms of quality. We must keep this in mind when tasting older bottles too!

Also, don't forget to read our White Wines List!


  • September 5, 2021
  • Blog