Crowd-pleasing; great for dinner parties or for sipping on its own. Full-bodied with long finish full of flavor, especially dark fruit and cinnamon. Versatile food pairing. About 5 g/L of sugar; 13.5% alcohol by volume. Easy to find.
May be too dry for some. Not the most complicated of cabernets.
Round and refreshing; great for cheeses and grilled chicken or pork. Made from Gamay grapes from 38 villages in the Beaujolais region of France. Fruity while still having a nice weight. 12.5% alcohol by volume.
Some don’t prefer it with red meat. A little thin if you’re used to thicker wines.
Smooth with a full body. Made from California zinfandel grapes from historic vines, with lots of sugar leaving a residual sweetness. Touches of spice and vanilla. Goes great with grilled meats and strong flavors.
Watch out for the 14.5% alcohol content.
Jammy and fruity wine with a sweet finish. Blended with 10% Syrah and 5% cabernet sauvignon for some complexity. Goes well with rich pasta, beef, and salmon. 13.5% alcohol.
May need to let it breathe or decant for best results.
Medium-bodied wine with structure and pleasing acidity. Has flavors of tart cherry, rhubarb, smoke, and earth. Refreshes the palate between bites of salmon or poultry. 12.5% alcohol by volume.
Some may find it too tart for drinking on its own.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.