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

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.
Maroon Wines 2014 Maroon Vineyard Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
96 points
$160
Brown brick red color. Aromas and flavors of spiced dried berries, honeycomb, leather bag filled with coffee, chocolate and spice, and wet clay with a satiny, bright, fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, very long finish with notes of cassis pie a la mode, honey glazed carrots, cherry cola, and chocolate mint with silky, soft tannins. A stately, seamless cabernet with deep rich flavors, finely balanced oak, and a long satisfying finish.
Amalthea 2015 Reserve Merlot
96 points
$24.99
Dark burnt sienna color. Mature aromas of tomato leaf, ripe cherry, graphite, geranium, leather patina, vanilla scented tobacco, and olives with a velvety, vibrant, fruity full body and a warming, very complex, very long cedar incense, dried figs, black tea, cigars, hint of violet, damson plum, and licorice finish with silky tannins and heavy oak flavor. Astoundingly skillful use of oak makes for an uncommonly silky red with intense, complex notes of fine tobacco, tea, and leather; absolutely a must-try.
96 points $24.99
Forchini 2015 Proprietors Reserve Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon
96 points
$34
Dusty garnet color. Aromas of suede, sweet gum tree, spiced grapefruit, amaretto, kirsch, and peppercorns with a round, vibrant, medium-to-full body and a peppery, huge, very long toffee, cafe latte, hints of fine cognac, and toasted brioche finish with well-integrated, chewy tannins and moderate oak flavor. An outstanding wine that oozes sophistication and balance; any wine lover will be lucky to try this.
Spangler 2016  Petit Verdot
96 points
$39
Black violet color. Aromas and flavors of fresh-baked gingerbread, spiced plum, canary wood, violet, black pepper, and berry studded fritters with a velvety, vibrant, fruity full body and a warming, complex, very long finish manifesting shades of eclair with moderate oak flavor. A superb example of Petite Verdot with in-check tannins and a wildly aromatic, exotic nose.
Shenandoah Vineyards 2018  Cabernet Franc
95 points
$20
Best Buy
Dusty ruby color. Aromas of raspberry thumbprint cookies, grilled ladyfingers, redwood, and pimento with a round, vibrant, fruity medium-to-full body and a smooth, complex, long chocolate mousse and baklava finish with heavy oak flavor. A decadent and distinctive Cabernet Franc that assuages the palate with creamy oak and enlivens with snappy fruit and charming terroir.
95 points $20 Best Buy
Alexandria Nicole 2018 Destiny Red Blend Horse Heaven Hills
95 points
$56
Black violet color. Aromas and flavors of ripe fragrant plum, pomegranate, licorice, violet, and pimento with a chewy, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity full body and a seamless, complex, long finish that presents accents of tobacco with moderate oak flavor. A brawny, highly ageable Bordeaux Varietal Blend to cellar for at least a few more years; vibrant fruit and acidity promise greatness to come.
Paradise Ridge 2018 Branham Vineyard Malbec
95 points
$58
Deep purple color. Inviting aromas and flavors of boysenberry, fine leather, coconut cream, shortbread with toffee, baking spices, and black tea with a satiny, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a tingling, appealing, medium-long finish with overtones of chocolate, honey, and blackberry sorbet with moderate oak flavor. A tasty, well-balanced Malbec that’s highly pairable; a serious Malbec for the enthusiast.
Paradise Ridge 2015 Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon
95 points
$65
Black garnet color. Aromas and flavors of black olives, grilled veggies, toasted coconut, blistered berries, and wildflowers with a lightly tannic, crisp, dryish medium-full body and a warming, complex, medium-long finish with notes of coriander, ginger, and chocolate-dipped crystallized orange peel with moderate oak flavor. A dense and vivid Cabernet Sauvignon for the long haul; juicy and decadent now but patience will be rewarded!
Reynolds Family Winery 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
95 points
$125
Garnet black color. Aromas of chocolate-drizzled plums, caramel, curried nuts, and cola with a slightly chewy, vibrant, dryish medium-to-full body and a distinctive, long tobacco, black olives, almond croissant, chocolate-covered jellies, and toasted coconut finish. A bold, chewy, complex Stags Leap Cabernet that delivers.