Red wine comes in many varieties and can range greatly between very dry and sweet depending on the winery it was produced at. That's also why there's such a spread in the calories in red wine even when sticking to the standard wine pour. Whether you're buying a winery or you just enjoy sipping wine at the end of the week, learning these types of red wine will be a fun and helpful adventure as you navigate wine marketing. It can even come in handy with Valentine’s day promotion ideas for restaurants.
Knowing these differences is important for anyone looking to purchase quality wine, not just a wine negociant. This can often feel overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting to learn about wine.
Sweet Red Wine Types
Red wine is usually known for being dry but there are a number of sweet red wines on the market. From dry wines with sweet undertones to fortified reds, there are many sweet options for red wine lovers. Just make sure to pick up a wine stain remover beforehand in case you spill any of these great wines.
Here are five sweet red wine types worth a taste. You can use these wines as dessert wines or as a substitute for white wine if you're not a fan.
- Brachetto d’Acqui. Brachetto d’Acqui is an aromatic sweet wine that often has rich floral and fruity notes. The sweetness comes from an increased amount of sugar in wine. This is somewhat lessened by the high acidity and the wine alcohol content is also relatively low at about 5.5%.
- Lambrusco. Like Brachetto, Lambrusco is a sweet red wine from Italy with a medium-sweet taste. It has double the ABV of the Brachetto but has a bit of a less-favorable reputation. This is because Lambrusco is a blended wine consisting of multiple types of grapes. Sticking with the higher-priced version will ensure you get the best quality blend.
- Shiraz. Shiraz is a red wine made from the Shiraz grape. It is an identical grape to the Syrah grape, which is why the names are often used interchangeably. It has a delicious taste of pepper, spice, and sweet red fruit, and a moderate-to-high ABV.
- Vintage Port. Port is a type of fortified red wine typically aged in a barrel for two or three years. The fortification process involves adding further alcohol and sugar to the aged wine after fermentation. However, what makes vintage port truly special is it is further aged in the bottle for another 15-40 years. After 40 years, we can’t guarantee you won’t find out the answer to “can wine go bad?” The flavors include grape, blackberry, wood spice, and pepper.
- Black Muscat. Black Muscat is a sweet wine used either as table wine or dessert wine depending on the level of sweetness. It is known for its rich flavors of raspberry, black tea, and violets. This range makes it the perfect addition to any prix fixe menu.
Semi Sweet Red Wine Types
Semi-sweet, or medium sweet, red wines are some of the most popular across the globe. In particular, European countries tend to have semi-sweet reds on all occasions.
Here are the four most popular semi-sweet red wine types:
- Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet is a full-bodied, oaky wine created in and named after a region in the south of France. It only has a moderate level of acid in wine, making it the perfect wine to drink with dinner.
- Merlot. One of the most well-known red wines, merlot is a softer and more accessible red wine. It typically tastes like rich, ripe fruit and can have subtle earthy undertones. Merlot is likely to have you asking, "Is wine an aphrodisiac?" as it pairs well with desserts and romance.
- Pinot noir. Pinot noir is the most popular red wine in the world and is also one of the oldest. Pinot is medium-bodied, with complex and rich flavors that can include cherry, raspberry, and spices. This is a great place to start for beginners and the complexity is also good for learning the ins and outs of smelling wine.
- Zinfandel. Grown in many California vineyards, red zinfandels have a strong impact on the taste buds. They usually taste like a bold fruit jam with undertones of spices and a smoky finish.
Dry Red Wine Types
Dry red wines come in two categories, off-dry and very dry. Off-dry red wines lack the sweetness of wines like Cabernet Sauvignon but aren't so dry that they can't be enjoyed by a majority of people. Very dry wines are exactly how they sound and are generally less popular.
With that in mind, here are five popular dry red wine types:
- Chianti. One of the most famous Italian wines, Chianti is rich and imbued with a dark color thanks to the tannins in wine. Historically, this wine is associated with a squat bottle wrapped in a straw basket. It has an earthy taste reminiscent of cherry, dried herbs, and smoke.
- Bordeaux. Named for the region in France, Bordeaux is one of the most popular table wines in the world. It was introduced to the region by the Romans, so vintners have had plenty of time to manipulate and adjust the process to create the best wine possible. Bordeaux is known for its deep, earthy flavor with notes of black currant and plums.
- Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc is made from the parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon, so it's no wonder that the flavor profiles are similar. However, this dry wine has an even more complex flavor profile with notes of roasted peppers, plum, and earth. It's a great wine to pair with herby dishes like a quiche or stew.
- Burgundy. Burgundy is a rich and acidic red wine with a deep color as expected from the name. It is a very rich and deep-bodied wine with notes of black cherry, blackberry, and peaches. It's best paired with things like a charcuterie board, so it's a good choice for a wine and cheese happy hour.
- Sangiovese. Though less common than some of the other reds, Sangiovese can come from a variety of regions due to the hardiness of the grape family. It is a complex wine with deep, rich flavors. These flavors range from red cherry to herbs to tobacco. It's a great option for pairing with dishes featuring a lot of olive oil or butter.
Italian Red Wine Types
Italian red wines are a little less popular than their French counterparts but are no less delicious. Many red wine grapes have been grown in the region for thousands of years. This storied history is evident in the rich flavor profiles.
Here are a few of the most popular Italian red wine types:
French Red Wine Types
French red wines are some of the most well-known and loved in the world. You've probably had a few yourself. These wines are the perfect excuse to pick up the best wine decanter on the market.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of the most popular French red wine types:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
Frequently Asked Questions About Red Wine Types
There's a lot of information out there about red wine types. It can be hard to learn everything, but if you want to learn more, there are some general questions that may interest you:
What Is the Best Type of Red Wine?
There is no single best type of red wine, but the most popular red wine varietal is Cabernet Sauvignon. This is because it is an easy entry point into the world of red wine. It is neither too sweet nor too dry and offers a savory flavor ranging from black pepper to bell pepper. It's also the most commonly grown wine grape in the world, so there are many different brands and vintages to choose from. It's truly a must-have for any wine list.
How Do You Choose From The Dessert Wine Names?
Choosing a dessert wine name from the shelves can be tricky. Dessert wines are a unique beast in the wine world, and the flavors are quite varied. The list of dessert wines on this list is a good place to start, and if you're standing in the wine aisles unsure of what to choose, you can always check with the wine experts in your local shop - they should have some recommendations for you!
What Makes Italian Red Wine Types So Popular?
It's no secret that Italian red wine types are some of the best red wine options. But why is that? It all comes down to the region of grape growing, the perfected practice of wine making, and, to be honest, the allure that Italian red wine has picked up over the years. Italian reds might not always be the right wine for the moment, but there's no doubt about it, there's something about a nice glass of Chianti that just works.
Better Off Red
Now that you know all about the different types of red wine, you're on your way to picking the best pairings for any dish. Reds can be sweet or dry, high or low alcohol. Feel free to try a few out and discover your favorites.
Whether you're looking for a food wine pairing, want cooking wine recommendations, or you can't remember the name of your favorite wine, we can help. We can also recommend a great electric wine opener so you don't have to stress when opening one of these great wines and wine glasses with pour lines so you don’t waste a drop.