Types of Red Wine

Wine 101: Types of Red Wine and Their Characteristics

Red Wine! Not as familiar to me as white wine, but I’m slowly trying to expand my wine palette. For those of you who didn’t know, red wine gets its color during the wine-making process by leaving the grape skins in while the juice ferments (aka, white wine can also be made from red grapes by extracting the skins during this process). In general, common red wines seem to be more full-bodied than white wines, and lean on the dryer side.

Common Types of Red Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular grape for red wine. Cabernets are a bold, rich, full-bodied dry red wine with high acidity, high tannins, and high alcohol content. Common flavors found in this wine are blackberry, currant, and black cherry with aromas of vanilla, oak, black pepper, tobacco, and licorice. From what I gather, “Cab” seems to be the Chardonnay of red wine.


Malbec is a strong, intense, full-bodied wine with fruit flavors of black cherry, pomegranate, plum, raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry. Its aromas may include cocoa, chocolate, coffee, mocha, leather, black pepper, and tobacco. This wine has high tannins and medium acidity. The Malbec grape thrives in a hot-high elevation climate, and as a result found a happy home in Argentina.


Syrah is a dark, full-bodied rich wine with flavors of plum, blackberry, black cherry, spice, earth, chocolate, black pepper, flowers, and truffles. Syrah produces some of the darkest red wines of the world.

Fun Fact: Shiraz (Australian), is the exact same grape variety as Syrah (French) but its wines tend to more hearty, spicy, and fruit-forward than Syrah.


Not the same as White Zin, which I am more familiar with. Although it is a light-bodied wine, Zinfandel is described as zesty and bold, with high acidity and medium tannins. It has flavors of raspberry, blackberry, and aromas of black pepper and smoke. It is most commonly found in California, USA, and occupies about 10% of California vineyards.


Merlot has a similar profile to Cabernet, although is often described as “softer” with its low to medium tannins and medium acidity. It contains flavors of berries, black cherry, plum, cocoa, and herbal aromas.

Fun Fact: Merlot is often blended with Cabernet, as Merlot’s smooth, soft profile complements Cabernet’s bold flavors and high tannins.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is my current favorite red wine, most likely because it is light to medium bodied, fresh and fruit-forward. Pinot Noir contains flavors of cherries, black plum, and black raspberries. It may contain aromas of rose, currant, earth, and leather. If you aren’t a fan of red wine, but are looking to expand your wine palette I recommend starting with a Pinot Noir to ease yourself in.

Common Types of Red Wine

Photo Cred: Hannah Bartelt



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