About Red Wines

Red wine is made from red grapes; as most red grapes have juice that is clear, the color of a red wine is the result of skin contact during maceration prior to fermentation.

Red Wine Varietal Groups

These are the main groupings of red grape varietals (or more strictly speaking grape varieties) used in the vast majority of red wine production around the world.

Red Bordeaux Varietals
Bordeaux varietals is a term used to describe wines exclusively produced of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes. These wines can either be produced from 100% of a single varietal or a blend of 2 or even all 5 varietals. Carménère is sometimes also considered amongst the Bordeaux varietals, but most often this group is limited to just the 5 previously mentioned varietals. These varietals were original cultivars of the Bordeaux region of France where they thrived and were later transplanted around the world as far as the US, Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.

Red Burgundy Varietals
Burgundy varietals is a term used to describe wines produced of the Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes. These wines can either be produced from 100% of a single varietal or a blend. These varietals were original cultivars of the Burgundy region of France where they thrived and were later transplanted around the world.

Red Rhone Varietals
Rhone varietals is a term used to describe wines produced of the Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, and Petite Sirah grapes. These wines can either be produced from 100% of a single varietal or a blend. These varietals were original cultivars of the Rhone region of France where they thrived and were later transplanted around the world. Syrah and Mourvedre tend to be full-bodied, rich, and flavorful reds while Grenache and Carignane tend to the lighter side of the spectrum.

Red Zinfandel
Zinfandel came to American shores by way of the Schonbrunn collection which contained all the wine varietals grown in the Austrian empire. The earliest mention of Zinfandel, by name, in America was a vine nursery in Long Island in the 1820s. It made its way to California in the gold rush and thrived because of its hearty constitution and vigorous yields. Many a prospector had a little vineyard of Zinfandel and washed away their sorrows in their purple cups. As the 19th turned to the 20th century, it thrived as a potent source of table wine (Gallo’s jugs of Hearty Burgundy were made from old vine Zin). Ironically, it was the development of White Zinfandel that saved many of the great old vineyards, which are now yielding world-class wines. The Blush explosion of the seventies meant there was a reason not to rip up Zin for other newly popular grapes.

Red Hybrids
Hybrid wines refer to US wine varietals that are a crossbreeding of European vinifera wine grapes and indigenous American wine grapes that have hearty rootstocks well adapted to the US climate. Chambourcin and Norton are the two most important red hybrid varietals in the US; they are capable of making world-class wines.

Other Reds
This category is reserved for regional varietals and blends that do not fit into other established categories. Examples of varietals included as part of this category are Bonarda, Baco Noir, Primitivo, Frontenac, Blaufrankish (Lemburger) and an endless combination of blends.
Top Picks for Red
220350
Cielo
2013 Cent'anni Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
Dusty garnet black color. Floral, elegant, mature aromas of Christmas pudding and sweet black cherry, orange blossom and violet candy, new leather, and chocolate cookie with a velvety, dry-yet-fruity medium-full body and a thought-provoking, endless dried forest berries, salted caramel chocolate truffle, polished wood, and dusted jerked meats finish with fine, silky tannins and moderate oak. Life’s puzzle pieces finally come together when drinking this wine.
97 points $32.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
219330
Grifo
2015 Puglia Nero di Troia IGP
Brilliant ruby color. Candied, sweet, fruity aromas and flavors of blueberry sorbet, vanilla gelato, lavender and violet candy, and turkish bazaar with a satiny, vibrant, fruity light body and a medium-long mocha mousse and candied mint leaf finish with well-integrated, soft tannins. A delicious fresh and fruity wine with great complexity; lip-smacking.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
217259
Renteria
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Opaque violet color. Inviting, toasty aromas and flavors of roasted nuts, dark chocolate mint, and cassis pastry with a satiny, bright, fruity medium-full body and a smooth, complex, long berry-cherry custard tart, melted toffee, and delicate baking spices finish with silky, soft tannins and moderate oak. A plush, juicy Napa cabernet with bright fruit and seamless balance.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
219789
Schild Estate
2013 Ancestor Vines Moorooroo Shiraz
Dark garnet black color. Aromas and flavors of cassis, plum, blackberry, and eucalyptus with an lively, dry-yet-fruity full body and a refreshing, medium-long finish with medium tannins and moderate oak. A juicy Shiraz with bold fruit flavors.
96 points $99.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
219944
Tradition
2015 Cuvée Red Wine Napa Valley
Dusty garnet color. Aromas and flavors of menthol mint, spiced blueberries, eucalyptus, and farm lands with a satiny, vibrant, fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, very long vanilla mint and cola, spiced chocolate toffee, and pepper jelly on biscuit finish with fine, chewy tannins and moderate oak. A rich, complex, satisfying red blend with great style and structure.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218991
Belasco de Baquedano
2015 Llama Old Vine Red Blend Bonarda-Malbec
Opaque color. Aromas and flavors of plums, cherry, and flowers with a lively, dryish full body and an appealing, long finish with well-integrated tannins and moderate oak. A superb full-bodied red with plenty of terrior, dark fruit flavors, kirsch notes, and well integrated tannins; this could easily pass for a top end red Bordeaux.
96 points $14 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218155
Mr. Riggs
2014 The Magnet Grenache
Garnet black color. Spicy, fruity aromas and flavors of berry chutney, chocolate mint, and menthol lozenge with a satiny, vibrant, fruity medium body and a complex, long huckleberry jam on toast, exotic spices, and nut brittle finish with fine, silky tannins and light oak. A sensationally spicy and flavorful grenache that hits all of the high notes.
96 points $21.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
217486
Domaine Sarrabelle
2011 In Vinum Gaillac AOP
Nearly opaque garnet black color. Aromas and flavors of dried blueberries, toffee, delicate dried flowers, and toasty cedar and leather with a silky, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a sleek, engaging, medium-long peach skin, cedar, nutskin, and black tea finish with well-integrated, dusty tannins and moderate oak. A plush, complex, velvet brick of a red wine with evolving waves of flavor.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
217153
Monte De Oro
2013 Zinfandel
Nearly opaque violet color. Fresh, tropical aromas and flavors of coconut gelato, huckleberry pie, and dried cherries and apricots with a satiny, tangy, fruity medium-to-full body and a tingling, complex, very long spiced oranges, orange blossom honey, creme brulee, and toffee finish with fine, silky tannins. A plush, unctuous zinfandel designed for a full throttle, berry barrage of hedonism.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
215777
Michael Gill Cellars
2014 "Black Tie" Syrah
Opaque dark black garnet color. Bright, fruity, smoky toasty savory aromas and flavors of chocolate covered espresso beans and bacon berry doughnut with a lively, fruity full body and a peppery, layered, medium-long creme brulee, spicy berry compote, and buttery praline finish with silky, soft tannins and moderate oak. A rich, seamless, and satisfying fruit-driven syrah with lots of stuffing.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab