When we first start drinking wine, we often try all kinds but then we settle-in on one red that we particularly like. About sixty percent of people drink red wine over white 1 . But it’s time to discover anew the wonderful flavors of other red varietals! You’ll be delighted with what you discover and you’ll learn why here. We’ll show you a good mix of wines with their own distinct characteristics.
When you’re done reading this, you’ll not only know about these five wines and their distinct characteristics that make them so fantastically different, but you’ll want to rush to your local wine shop and buy each straight away.
These wines have different body, sweetness, tannins, acidity and even alcohol—to delight your palate. We’ll help you not only discover these differences but even talk about them with your friends.
Chances are your favorite wine varietal is Cabernet Sauvignon but in case it isn’t or you want to discover it anew, we’ll help you understand what makes a Cab—a Cab.
A Cab is known for its full-body and tannins. Tannins form that mouth-puckering feeling in your mouth when you drink wine. They soften and reveal the wine’s subtleties with age (like a frame around a picture), which makes Cabs a great aging wine varietal.
As you swish a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon around in your mouth (to better discover all the nuances), you’ll notice not only a chalky (mouth-puckering) quality from the tannins but also your taste buds will discover the wonderful hints of herbs and spices. Cabs tend to have hints on the nose and palate of dark cherries and all kinds of spices. Because most Cabs are contained in new-oak barrels—a note of vanilla can be tasted.
Wines with similar profiles to Cabernet Sauvignon are classic Bordeaux blends, Merlot, Sangiovese and Tempranillo.
This light red and body wine has grown even more popular lately, and with good reason. It tastes great! Some of the most expensive and exclusive wines in the world are Burgundy wines, which are usually Pinot Noirs from the Burgundy, French region (Old World Wine).
Pinot Noir (and particularly Burgundy) has a cult following of avid lovers. I confess I’m one of them. The lightness, along with the striking and distinct aromas that pop-out, make Pinot Noir a truly amazing grape.
As you swish this wine in your mouth, you can pick-up acidity, which is what gives the wine a fresh, tart and sour taste. Good wine, including Pinots, balance acidity with the sweetness and tannins of the wine. If you’re a cook, you can appreciate the balance of a good meal (acidity, sugars, spice, etc). Wine is very similar in that when those aromas and flavors blend together in the right way, as they often do with many Pinots – it’s an amazing and delicious experience.
Frequently you’ll get aromas of cherries, raspberries and cranberries with low tannins so the acidity is more pronounced and that frames those flavors to make the wine really pop with distinct flavors.
Burgundy wine tends to have a good balance of acidity and flavors drawn from its Old World wine making style. New World Pinots tend to be more fruit forward and less soft, making the wine taste more “jammy”.
Wines with similar profiles to Burgundy are Gamay and Grenache.
If you like full-bodied, dark wine (darker than Cabernet Sauvignon) then the first wine you should try is a Syrah. Swirling a mouthful of Syrah will tantalize your palate with chocolate, spice and fruit notes. Unlike Pinot Noir’s light fruits (raspberry and cranberry), Syrah’s fruit notes are dark blueberries and plums. Syrah’s earthy spicy notes are of pepper and tobacco. Old World Syrahs of Rhone, France tend to be earthier than New World Shiraz’s of Australia, which tend to be fruitier.
Syrah pairs nicely with steak, lamb, Italian and Chinese food.
Wines with a similar profile to Syrah are Malbec and French Rhone blends.
Traditionally Zinfandel is known for its high alcohol content, which is great. I mean who doesn’t love a good buzz, right? That burn through your nose that feels oh so good… but I digress.
Zinfandel grapes are usually picked while very ripe, which not only gives lends to a sweeter wine, almost jam-like in aroma and flavor, but also contribute to the high alcohol content. Of course this is true of red zinfandel, not white.
The strong fruit flavors of Zinfandel are blueberry, cherry, boysenberry, plum, cranberry and licorice. It also has a spice and tobacco finish. Zins are like a marriage of a lot of other fruity varietals but more intense.
Zinfandel is lighter in color and body than a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot but with higher tannins than a Pinot Noir. The higher alcohol content (around 15-16%) tends to make for a bolder wine.
Spicy barbecue pork and spicy curry are two dishes that pair well with a Zinfandel.
Outside of Italy, Sangiovese is hardly grown but it is a wonderful grape to get to know better. It has many of the best characteristics of all the aforementioned wines. It is high in acidity like Pinot Noir and has medium-high tannins like Cabernet Sauvignon; it has fruity notes of cherry, strawberry and plum like Zin and notes of tobacco and smoke, like Syrah. It’s a chameleon!
The color and body is between a Pinot Noir and Syrah, but can be more or less sweet, depending on the region where it is grown and its style.
Sangiovese pairs well with meals that have a tomato sauce base, mushroom dishes and rich chicken dishes.