Best Red Wine

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best red wine

Last Updated July 2020

Red wine is a globally beloved drink, enjoyed by many groups of people for all kinds of occasions. Red wine, created by fermenting grapes, has been around for millennia. Red wines are made around the world, from France to Australia, America to Chile, and South Africa to Italy.

While there are 32 or so main varietals of red wine, there are countless other types and blends, and each region, vineyard, and season offers something distinct and enjoyable. What’s more, a bottle opened today would probably have a different taste than if you opened the same bottle in three years’ time as wine grows in complexity as it ages. Wine varies greatly, and there is a red for everyone.

All you really need to know about wine is what you like. Our buying guide will help you differentiate between types of red wine so you can find the right bottle for you. For our five favorite red wines, see the matrix above.

Every bottle of wine can be influenced by any number of factors, such as weather, region, fermentation process, and a host of other things, making each bottle of red wine unique.

Key considerations

Red wine vs. white wine

In the winemaking process, red wine is fermented from darker grapes and their skins, while white wine is made from white grapes separated from their skins. What’s more, red wine is typically aged in oak barrels, while whites are not. Barrel aging creates the numerous aromas and flavors that you taste in red wine.

Varietals

Before venturing off to buy a bottle, it’s important to know the basic types of red wine and the noteworthy differences. A varietal is a wine that is made from a single type of grape, while wines made from several different grapes are called blends.

These varietals are among the most popular choices for red wine, but there are many others worth exploring:

  • Pinot noir: A light-bodied red, pinot noir is an easy drinking wine that pairs well with most meals but can also be enjoyed by itself. It predominantly features red fruit flavors.
  • Zinfandel: This is one of the most balanced reds. It features both black and red fruit flavors, with medium tannins, acidity, and dryness. Zins tend to be bold though still fruity at first taste. They have a high alcohol content and pair well with most meals.
  • Cabernet sauvignon: Among the heaviest of red wines, this bold, full-body option pairs well with beefy, fatty dishes and generally should be decanted before being enjoyed. Cabs can be aged for many years and will improve in that span. Cabs possess strong black fruit flavors.
  • Syrah: This is one of the boldest and richest reds around. Full-bodied and powerful, syrah features notes of blueberry and black plum, and as a result it pairs well with spicy food. It’s the most popular planted grape in Australia, where it’s known by another name: shiraz.

Body

Red wine can be divided into three different styles: light-bodied, medium-bodied, and full-bodied. As you move from light to full, the wine’s tannin and alcohol content tends to increase while acidity trends lower.

  • Light: These reds have a pale color to them, and they can be seen through when poured into a glass. They are lower in tannins, which means they lack the initial bitterness of other wines. They are easy to drink on their own but can also pair with a variety of meals. These wines are usually made with red fruit flavors. Pinot noir is the most popular light-bodied red wine.
  • Medium: As their name suggests, these reds have a balance of acidity and tannins: they are neither too bitter nor too tart. They are easy to drink and pair well with most meals. Medium-bodied reds include grenache, merlot, and zinfandel, among others.
  • Full: These heavier, dark reds are big on tannins, which means they pair well with fatty meats, lamb, and beef. Full-bodied reds are bold and intense and taste of black fruits. Cabernet sauvignon, the most popular red wine in the world, is a full-bodied wine.
DID YOU KNOW?

It’s believed all wines are descended from Vitis vinifera, a black grape. A mutation occurred along the way, spawning white grapes.

Features

Dryness

The dryness of a wine is one of the first things you notice when tasting. Most popular reds are dry (below 1% sweetness), while anything up to 3% is considered semi-dry. Red wine above 5% will taste exceptionally sweet, and those around 7% and beyond are considered dessert wines.

Acidity

A wine’s tartness comes from its acidity. Red wines with higher acidity may taste zesty or spritzy, while those will less acidity will translate as smooth, rich, and bold. This will strongly influence food pairings as you will want to balance out acidity between the wine and the meal.

Tannins

Tannins themselves taste dry but do not affect the dryness of a wine. Instead, they offer bitterness, longevity, and complexity. Higher tannins tend to lead to fuller bodied reds that take a bit longer to mature and age well over extended periods of time.

Alcohol content

An average red wine has an alcohol content between 11% and 13%. Bolder, fuller reds have a higher alcohol content, while lighter bodied ones have less alcohol.

Vintage

The vintage is the year in which the grapes were harvested. Weather, specifically the sun, is the most important factor in the quality of a wine’s vintage. Clouds, rain, and temperature all factor in as well, and not all grapes react the same way to the same weather. Vintage is considered by wine experts and connoisseurs when looking at higher-end bottles.

Serving

Most reds should be served at or just below room temperature. They are best decanted, though some may be enjoyed to their fullest in a matter of minutes. Most reds should be poured in large wine glasses with a wide bowl and wide opening. However, because different varietals possess distinct characteristics, there can be slight changes to these serving ideals.

DID YOU KNOW?

Tannins are found in tea leaves, whole nuts, berries, cinnamon, and cloves. In wine, they come from grapes and oak barrels, offering a bitter though beneficial taste.

Accessories

Wine racks: Sorbus Chateau-Style Wine Rack
Offering both convenience and a mature aesthetic for your home, a wine rack is a worthy investment for anyone who regularly enjoys wine. This one from Sorbus holds 23 bottles that you can keep on hand for days, months, or years.

Red wine glasses: Bormioli Rocco Red Wine Glasses
Enjoying red wine to the fullest means having the right glasses. These Bormioli Rocco glasses come in sets of eight or four and work well with all kinds of reds, allowing you quickly aerate and enjoy.

Decanters: Wine Enthusiast Crystal Vivid Wine Decanter
Most red wine is better enjoyed when decanted, even if just for a few minutes. This lead-free crystal option from Wine Enthusiast holds 750 milliliters of wine.

Corkscrews: Foho Wine Opener
While some red wine bottles come with screw caps, most are still corked and require the proper opener. This corkscrew and stopper set from Foho is easy to use and inexpensive.

Red wine prices

Red wine prices vary widely based on many factors, including region, vintage, and rarity. The type of red wine does not usually affect the price directly.

Inexpensive: For under $15, you can find a decent bottle of red wine for pairing with dinner or enjoying on its own. It will likely be from a common region and from recent years.

Mid-range: For anywhere between $15 and $50, you can find a wide range of quality bottles of red wine from around the world made within the last five years.

Expensive: For high-end bottles of red wine, expect to pay $50 to $100. Prices can go much higher from there, but anything in this range will likely be of a quality vintage. These wines are best for connoisseurs who know exactly what they enjoy and what they are getting.

DID YOU KNOW?

Aging red wine in oak barrels can create upward of 100 different notes, all natural.

Tips

  • Wide variation exists. Just because you don’t enjoy one vineyard or year of a particular type of wine, doesn’t mean you won’t like others of the same type.
  • Check for food pairings. While most wines won’t disrupt your meal, some are better equipped to enhance the flavors of your food. Be sure to check what’s best for what you’re having.
  • Experiment with aging. If you’re interested in testing out different wines, try letting a decent bottle sit for a year or two. Most reds get better with age, especially between three and 10 years after harvesting.
  • Know your regions. Some wine isn’t named for the type of grape, but the region it comes from, like Chianti and Bordeaux. These wines may be made up of a variety of grapes, but the history and reputation of the region helps consumers know what they’re getting.
Wine aroma refers to fruit, flowers, and herbal flavors associated with a wine varietal, while wine bouquet describes secondary notes, like spice or yeast, that are derived from barrel aging.

FAQ

Q. How do I know if a wine has gone bad?
A.
If you’re buying a bottle that has a cork, there is always a slight chance that the wine has cork contamination. If there is a putrid odor in the wine or cork, you have a tainted bottle. Once opened, a bottle of red wine will last around three to five days before turning acidic and becoming undrinkable. But it can still be used as vinegar!
 

Q. Why is there sediment in my glass?
A.
At the bottom of a glass of wine or bottle you may find grainy sediment like coffee grounds. Sediment is leftover from the winemaking process, and it’s usually a sign that there was minimal intervention in the process by the winemaker to improve the wine. While sediment is harmless, it doesn’t taste particularly enjoyable. Older bottles tend to have more sediment than younger ones. Decanting a bottle will help remove sediment, especially if you use a filter with your decanter.
 

Q. What’s the most popular red wine?
A.
Cabernet sauvignon is the most widely grown wine grape, occupying vineyards around the world. Merlot is next. Even so, these two varietals barely make up a tenth of all the wine grapes grown around the world.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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