Some of the most common red wines that you are likely to encounter are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Chianti, Barolo, Barberesco, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Shiraz, Sangiovese, Malbec, Tempranillo, Grenache, Bordeaux, and Côtes du Rhône.
Definition: A very young wine grown from the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region (part of Burgundy) of France. This wine is released annually on the third Thursday of November.
Flavor Profile:This is a light, fruity wine that is virtually free of tannins. Flavors of strawberry and raspberry dominate along with a grapey appeal. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be served chilled, around 55 degrees Farenheit.
Food Pairing: As far as complementary food pairings, this wine is a terrific accompaniment for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, working well with both light and dark meats, herbs and many other flavors that are a part of the festivities. Due to its food-friendliness, this wine will also pair well with grilled or roasted meats, a variety of pastas, salads and cheeses.
Definition: A thin-skinned red grape that grows particularly well in cooler climates, and is originally from the Bourdeaux and Loire Valley regions of France. The Cabernet Franc has been grown with success in France, Australia, Chile, Canada, South Africa, California and Washington, producing a fruity wine that is softer and more subdued than its regal relative, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Flavor Profile: With lower tannin levels and more distinct berry (mainly blueberry, raspberry and sometimes plum) flavor, Cabernet Franc is an ideal candidate for blending with other varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, more producers have been selling Cabernet Franc as a stand alone, single varietal on merchant shelves with notable success.
Food Pairings: poultry, lasagna, couscous with meat, Middle Eastern fare, veggie pizza, and Greek cuisine.
Chianti wines are red wines produced in Tuscany's Chianti region. The dominant grape used in making Chianti is Sangiovese. When you hear the word "Chianti," visions of cute bottles of wine based in a straw-like basket may come to mind; however, times have changed and while some producers still dress their Chiantis in baskets, many more are giving them the svelte sophistication of the traditional 750 ml red wine bottle.
Definition: Lagrein is a red wine grape that hails from northern Italy's Trentino-Alto Adige region. It is a cousin of Pinot Noir and Syrah. It typically puts forth a fairly red to dark berry fruit flavor on the palate, along with a rugged earthiness and a good bit of pepper. Lagrein can be a little rougher around the edges than it's Pinot Noir and Syrah relatives, with a fairly tannic profile. As a wine with a more acidic nature, it tends to put its best food forward with food. Give Lagrein a go with fish, poultry, game, or a few slices of dry-cured speck, its favorite hometown ham (basically Alto Adige's version of prosciutto or similar to Spain's famed jamón).
Definition: Originating from the Bordeaux region of France, this grape is among the "big six" for red wine grapes. However, with the exception of Cahors, its fame and fortune in France often end there, as Malbec is generally a grape used for blending, with very little vine being devoted to its improvement or success. The story in Argentina is quite the opposite. Malbec has found both fame and glory in the sun-drenched climate of Argentina. This is Argentina's signature grape and it is quickly making a new name for itself with red wine lovers.
Malbec is typically a medium to full-bodied red wine. Ripe fruit flavors of plums and blackberry give it a jammy characteristic. The tannins are typically a bit tight and the earthy, wood-like appeal makes for a fairly rustic, yet versatile wine.
Food Pairings: Definitely a red meat wine that is adaptable enough to stand up to spicy Mexican, Cajun, Indian or Italian fare (especially with tomato-based sauces). Consider giving Malbec a go with barbecue, chili and sausage.
Definition: Nebbiolo grapes grown predominantly in the Piedmont region of Italy produce some of Italy's greatest red wines, Barolo and Barbaresco. Despite its fickle growing and fermentation nature, these grapes are surprisingly resistant to disease and mold.
Flavor Profile:The Nebbiolo grape is typically characterized by the flavors of sweet fruits like blackberry and cherry, with high acidity levels and tough tannins.
Food Pairings: This is a grape varietal that welcomes the challenge of being paired with strong, flavorful meats and cheeses and will compete well with spicy Italian meats and well-aged Parmesan cheese.
Definition: Italy's most commonly planted red grape varietal, boasting over a dozen distinct clones, is a thin-skinned grape that tends to linger longer on the vine, takes its time to mature. Central Italy, specifically the region of Tuscany, is the agricultural heartland of the Sangiovese grape.
Italian Chianti and Chianti Classico wines are prime examples of popular wines produced predominantly from Sangiovese. Typically Sangiovese grapes make medium to full-bodied wines with tannin structure ranging from medium-soft to firm. Dominate flavors associated with Sangiovese derived wines include: cherry, plum, strawberry, cinnamon and vanilla. There is often a herbaceous quality associated with Sangiovese wines. As for acidity levels, Sangiovese leans towards medium to high acidity content. The finish can range from elegant to bitter.
Food Pairings: Well-matched for the flavors of chicken, red meat, fish, lamb, pork, pastas, stews or well-aged cheeses.
Definition: The Tempranillo grape is the dominant grape varietal in Spain's Rioja wines. It produces a medium to full-bodied red wine with lower acidity and full fruit flavor characteristics. These wines are grown primarily in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions of Spain.
Flavor Profile - Tempranillo wines have characteristic flavors of plum, cherry, and strawberry often mixed with an earthy minerality.
Food Pairings - Tempranillo wines are perhaps one of the most food friendly wines around. They offer versatility and value - without forsaking flavor and lift. Consider pairing them with their hometown favorites - tapas, pork, grilled or roasted entrees.