If you're a wine enthusiast, then there is a good chance you are familiar with the more famous vineyards and types of wine.
Wine-producing regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy are world-renowned, as are wine producers such as Château Lafite Rothschild and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
However, at the base of all these famous structures is the grapevine and its humble fruit. In this article, we'll be looking at some of the top red wine grapes used in winemaking.
This is the most widely planted and consumed wine grape in the world. It is particularly associated with Bordeaux, although it has spread across many other regions as well. Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its dark, rich flavours and ability to age well.
Cabernet Sauvignon has a wide range of possible tasting notes, depending on the terroir and winemaking techniques used. Generally, it’s described as having intense aromas of dark fruits such as blackcurrant and cherry, along with notes of cedar, tobacco, leather and dried herbs.
Cabernet Sauvignon is an incredibly versatile grape variety that pairs well with many different dishes. It goes particularly well with red meats, game meats, and dishes with bold flavours.
It also pairs nicely with aged cheeses such as blue cheese or gouda and is a great companion for mushroom-based dishes, grilled vegetables, and herby pasta sauces.
Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to make Bordeaux wines. It has a softer, rounder character than Cabernet Sauvignon and can be enjoyed at an earlier age. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot share a parent grape in Cabernet Franc.
Merlot is also popular in New World wine styles, such as in California and Australia. It has a softer, rounder character than Cabernet Sauvignon with less tannin structure.
Merlot’s tasting notes can include aromas and flavours of plums, black cherry, dark chocolate, cedar, violet, tobacco and herbs.
The flavours of Merlot are typically softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, and it pairs well with roasted poultry, and pork dishes such as pulled pork, tomato-based sauces, and mushrooms. It also goes nicely with soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert.
Pinot Noir is a light-bodied red wine with a name derived from the French words for “pine” and “black”. It has a complex flavour profile that ranges from tart cherry to earthy mushrooms, along with notes of black pepper, herbs and spices.
Pinot Noir’s aromas and flavours can include raspberries, cherries, strawberries, plums and cranberries. It also has a bright acidity and soft tannins, with spice and herbal notes. On the palate, Pinot Noir is smooth, with a vibrant finish that lingers on the tongue.
Pinot Noir can be paired with a variety of dishes, from pork to poultry and even some vegetarian meals. It pairs nicely with garlic, thyme and rosemary-seasoned dishes such as grilled salmon, roasted chicken or pork roast.
Pinot Noir also pairs well with mushrooms, earthy herbs like thyme and oregano, and creamy cheeses like Gouda and Brie.
Also known as Shiraz, the Syrah grape varies in colour from deep purple to lighter hues of ruby red. Often grown in regions with warm climates, such as Australia and California, Syrah is noted for its intense flavours.
Aromas can range from blackberries and cranberries to pepper and spices, while the palate typically features hints of dark cherries, liquorice and sweet herbs.
The tasting notes of a Syrah will often include red and black fruits, along with notes of sweet spices, smoked meats and leather.
On the nose, you may detect aromas of dark plums, black pepper and baking spices. The palate of a Syrah can be described as full-bodied and robust, with a hint of tannin from the skins and seeds
Syrah’s boldness pairs particularly well with grilled meats and hard cheeses. Dishes such as pepper steak, lamb chops, or a charcuterie board are all excellent choices for pairing with Syrah.
The robust tannins of the wine stand up well to fatty meats and sharp cheeses, making it an ideal accompaniment for these types of dishes.
Closely associated with Argentine wine, Malbec grapes produce a full-bodied and bold red wine.
Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina, are known for producing some of the finest Malbecs in the world, thanks to their high-altitude vineyards.
Malbec has a dark, almost inky hue with flavours of ripe plums, blackberry jam, and hints of tobacco.
The traditional tasting notes of Malbec range from ripe cherry, figs and dark chocolate, to smoky bacon, leather, mocha and espresso.
When it comes to food pairings, Malbec stands up well to heartier dishes such as grilled steak with peppers and onions or pork shoulder roasted in a red wine reduction. It also complements charcuterie boards that feature sharp cheeses and cured meats.