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
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
214105
Opaque
2010 Petit Verdot
Black garnet color. Bright, exotic, earthy aromas of dried cassis and herbs, saddle leather, bloody meat, and clay with a supple, vibrant, dryish medium-to-full body and a silky, complex, medium-long nuts, baking and peppery spices, oak, and earth finish with well-integrated, chewy tannins and moderate oak. A wonderfully savory and old world styled petit verdot that drinks like a right bank Bordeaux.
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
214363
Falkner
2012 "Amante" Super Tuscan Style Red Wine Temecula Valley
Dark brick red color. Savory, earthy complex aromas and flavors of dried tomatoes, cherries and olives, roasted black walnuts and pecans drizzled with vanilla cream, clay and leather bound wood chair, and hint of beef bouillon with a satiny, bright, dry medium-to-full body and a smooth, very long borscht, cocoa, nuts, and earth finish with moderate oak. A superb American take on the difficult to replicate artisan Italian style that is reeling with earthy, savory fruit and oak flavors.
96 points $49.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
214824
Jarvis
2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Nearly opaque dark brown brick color. Bright, fruity, toasty aromas and flavors of purple hard candy - blackberry, toasted coconut, mulberry cobbler, and spiced berries - cedar with a tannic, tangy, dry full body and a peppery, charming, medium-length finish with chewy, crunchy, firm tannins and moderate oak.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
214248
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards
2012 Estate Cabernet Franc
Garnet black color. Bright, interesting, complex aromas and flavors of pressed flowers, carrot cake, exotic spices, and tomato chutney with a satiny, vibrant, fruity medium-to-full body and a smooth, complex, medium-long boysenberry relish, marinated olives, and spiced nuts finish with moderate oak. A vibrant, pure and complex cabernet franc with great varietal character.
96 points $24.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218760
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards
2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Garnet black color. Fruity, creamy aromas and flavors of berry custard, spiced watermelon, vanilla toffee, and flowers and bee pollen with a silky, tangy, fruity medium-to-full body and a complex, long delicate spices, marinated beets and apricots, and nuts finish with fine, chewy tannins and moderate oak. A pure, flavorful, mouthwatering cabernet for all occasions.
95 points $27.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab