The Beginner's Guide to Red Wine

June 26, 2017
Alison Rodriguez

To some, red wine can seem daring, more refined and harder to understand than other kinds of wine, but don’t be discouraged. Here's everything you need to know about five common red wines to get started.

Figuring out which type of wine is right for you can be challenging if you don’t know what type of wine you enjoy best.

To some, red wine can seem daring, more refined and harder to understand than other kinds of wine, but don’t be discouraged.

Red wines are bold and bright — making them a great addition to a lunch outing or dinner out at a restaurant. But the type of red wine you buy accentuates different flavors in your meals, so it’s important to pair wine with your meal accordingly.

Take a look at these five delicious red wines and try to decide which one should be on your wine rack next.

[Looking for something more light and fruity? Check out our beginner's guide to white wine.]Cabernet Sauvignon

  • What does it taste like? Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied — which means its taste is big a powerful — dry — which means it has no residual surgar and isn’t sweet — and bitter wine with flavors of dark fruits like cherries, blackberries and plums.
  • Where is it from? It originated in France, but is now mostly from Italy, California, Washington, Australia and South America.
  • Pair it with… Fatty and high protein foods like burgers or prime rib
  • Did you know? The Cabernet Franc grape plant and the white Sauvignon Blanc grape plant accidentally cross bred to create the grape that is used for this wine.

Recommendation: Viña Errázuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013, Valle de Aconcagua, Chile

Price: $13 - $28, prices may vary

Pinot Noir

  • What does it taste like? Pinot Noir is a light-bodied, dry and fruity wine.
  • Where is it from? It orginated in the Burgundy region of France, but is now grown in the cooler areas of Austria, California, Oregon and New Zealand.
  • Pair it with… Meals with soft cheeses and cream sauces
  • Did you know?: Pinot, meaning pine in French, is given this name because of the pine cone shape that the grapes make while on the vine.

Recommendation: Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir, 2006, Australia

Price: $24.99, prices may vary

Syrah

  • What does it taste like? Syrah is a full-bodied, dry wine with a dark berry and peppery flavor.
  • Where is it from? It originated in, and is most famous in, France, but is also grown prominently in Australia, South America and South Africa.
  • Pair it with… Smokey meats and hard cheeses
  • Did you know? Syrah is one of the darkest wines. Even if you hold it up to the light, it is hard to see through it!

Recommendation: Fable BOBBEJAAN Syrah, 2009, South Africa

Price: $20 - $29, prices may vary

Merlot

  • What does it taste like? Merlot is a full-bodied wine, often with lighter red fruit or plum flavors.
  • Where is it from? It originated in France, but is now commonly made in California, Australia and Chile.
  • Pair it with… Anything! However, try to avoid spicy foods that can give Merlot a bitter taste.
  • Did you know? Merlot is often recommended to be the best for those who are just starting to drink red wine due to its light flavor.

Recommendation: Raymond R Collection California Merlot, 2014

Price: $12.99, prices may vary

Zinfandel

  • What does it taste like? Zinfandel is a full-bodied wine with fruity flavors ranging from plums to raspberries.
  • Where is it from? It was recently discovered to be originated in Croatia, but is commonly and famously grown in California.
  • Pair it with… Barbequed foods or cheddar cheeses
  • Did you know? Zinfandel typically has one of the highest alcohol contents of red wine, usually between 14 and 17 percent!

Recommendation: Calder Colombini Vineyard Redwood Valley Carignan, 2012, California

Price: $22.99, prices may vary