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 (aka Lemburger) and an endless combination of blends.

Top Picks for Red Wines

Jarvis 2015 Reserve Merlot
96 points
$310
Ruby black color. Aromas of chocolate raisins and prunes, carob bar, spiced berries, and bacon bits and pipe tobacco with a fat body and a very long cassis tart a la mode, toffee, and chocolate fudge finish. An elegant, satiny Merlot that is drinking exquisitely right now.
AvinoDos 2017  Malbec
96 points
$42
Black violet color. Aromas and flavors of spiced nuts, cherry-fig chutney, coconut macaroon and cocoa nibs, and cherry blossom with a satiny, bright, fruity medium-to-full body and a graceful, engaging, medium-long finish with nuances of blueberry pie a la mode, cedar, roasted root vegetables, and violets with chewy tannins and moderate oak flavor. A delicious and brawny Malbec with well-meshed flavors and mouth filing tannins; give this one some time.
H/H Estates 2012 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Michael Andrews Reserve Red Blend Horse Heaven Hills
96 points
$56
Black ruby color. Savory aromas and flavors of olive tapenade with cheese, figs and gherkins, goji berry and leather, and bacon wrapped dates with a supple, bright, dryish medium-to-full body and a warming, delightful, medium-long finish displaying impressions of blackberry tart, vanilla yogurt nuts and raisins, herbs and peppercorns, and cherry tea with well-integrated, dusty tannins and a suggestion of oak flavor. A round, mature Gran-Reserva-Roija-like red that will be stellar with a meaty meal or on its own.
Lawer Estates 2018 Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon
96 points
$115
Ruby color. Aromas of chocolate covered espresso bean with a dry fat body and a very long dark cherry, gunsmoke, and suede finish with moderate oak flavor. A serious Cabernet that showed up in an expensive suit ready for business.
Inglenook 2015  Cabernet Sauvignon
96 points
$54.95
Deep purple color. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackberry preserves, allspice, and grilled pumpernickel with a chewy, lively, dry full body and a warming, thought-provoking, long finish with suggestions of black currant, india ink, molasses, clove, and black peppercorn. A robust and complex Cabernet that will develop in the glass throughout a meal and for years to come.
96 points $54.95
Jarvis 2015  Petit Verdot
96 points
$180
Black garnet color. Aromas and flavors of cured meat, mesquite, macerated blackberry, and dark chocolate shavings with a tannic, lively, dry full body and a very long finish with accents of ripe blackberry, sun dried tomato, and charred brisket. A complex, sun-drenched Petit Verdot with world-class intensity and structure; a bold and beautiful red.
Awards: 2021 Best Red Wine
Reynolds Family Winery 2015 Reserve 300 Series Cabernet Sauvignon
96 points
$115
Black garnet color. Aromas and flavors of black cassis, figs and dates, dark chocolate, fine caramel, toasted pine nuts, cola, and menthol with a slightly chewy, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a smooth, complex, long finish evoking notes of french silk pie, hazelnut spread, and licorice with silky tannins and moderate oak flavor. Supreme texture and elegant flavors mesh in this serious, upstanding Stags Leap Cabernet that is sure to please.
Jarvis 2018  Merlot
95 points
$190
Garnet black color. Aromas of spicy berry pie, creamed honey, toffee, and pipe tobacco with a fat body and a very long pickled cherries, blueberries and beets, cedar, and cocoa finish. A sumptuous, flavorful Napa merlot with power and grace.
Peller Estates 2020 Family Reserve Merlot
95 points
$10
Best Buy
Violet color. Aromas and flavors of bacon wrapped dates, chocolate espresso bean, bubbly berry pie crust, and bbq sweet potato chip with a supple, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a delightful, medium-long finish revealing suggestions of plum tart, spiced nuts, and cedar with chewy, earthy tannins and heavy oak flavor. A rich, oak-forward Merlot with bright fruit and grippy tannins that is a real pleasure to savor.
95 points $10 Best Buy
Dutchman Vineyard 2019  Alicante Bouschet
95 points
$27
Black garnet color. Aromas and flavors of buttery dark roasted nuts, berry fruit leather, and clay with a supple, bright, dry-yet-fruity full body and a smooth, charming, long finish with notes of craisins, sour cherry and tomato chutney, and herbed nuts with fine, chewy tannins and moderate oak flavor. A rich, juicy, wide-lens red that paints a piquant, pleasure-packed picture on the palate.