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

Mira Winery 2012 Schweizer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
97 points
$650
Calls to mind some of the top Napa Cabs from the 1980's, does all of the right Napa things without going too far with the ripe fruit and barrels; quite special.
Vineyard {511} 2013  Cabernet Sauvignon
96 points
$159
With mountain fruit that is purely delightful, this is just beginning to show some maturity but has a very long life ahead.
Jarvis 2018 Estate Petit Verdot
96 points
$230
A black fruit backbone with dashes of green herbs and a whole field of purple flowers; this is exactly what Petit Verdot is supposed to be.
Braganini 2020 Reserve Cabernet Franc
96 points
$26
Outside of Chinon, one of the best examples of Cab Franc encountered in quite some time.
Awards: '2023 Michigan Governor's Cup - Best Vinifera Red Wine' 2023 Michigan Governor's Cup - Governor's Case Best Red 2023 Michigan Governor's Cup - Governor's Cup Winner
H/H Estates 2012 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Michael Andrews Reserve Red Blend Horse Heaven Hills
96 points
$56
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
A serious Cabernet that showed up in an expensive suit ready for business.
Jarvis 2015 Reserve Merlot
96 points
$310
An elegant, satiny Merlot that is drinking exquisitely right now.
Awards: 2022 Best Merlot
AvinoDos 2017  Malbec
96 points
$42
A delicious and brawny Malbec with well-meshed flavors and mouth filing tannins; give this one some time.
Awards: 2022 Best Malbec
Mira Winery 2016 Hyde Vineyard Merlot
95 points
$75
An absolute delight; a fully ripe to the edge of brooding, red and black fruit loaded Merlot with just the right amount of oak.
Vineyard {511} 2014  Cabernet Sauvignon
95 points
$159
A beautiful wine today with the rich oak character leaning towards dessert and the capacity to age for decades as it slowly shows more of its savory side.