So, most of the times, you hear about red wine varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir but…what are their characteristics?

What grapes do they come from and what do they taste or smell like?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually knew more things about them?

Things that could help you distinct them and maybe get “what the fuss is all about”?

Well, first things first!

Let’s have a look in the list that follows as it includes 11 of the greatest red grape varieties!

Red Wine Grape Varieties

  1. Barbera
  2. Cabernet Franc
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon or Cab
  4. Gamay
  5. Malbec
  6. Merlot
  7. Nebbiolo
  8. Pinot Noir
  9. Shiraz or Syrah
  10. Tempranillo
  11. Zinfandel

The list is…ok… but is that all..?

Of course not!

Let’s check the above varieties a bit more closely…

  • Barbera: Barbera variety comes from black skinned grapes and is used for red wines. Its taste and aromas range from dark cherry, strawberry and blackberry to lavender, violet and vanilla. Its wine is the third most planted variety in Italy and its origins  lie in several regions of Italy, such as Piedmont, Puglia and Campania.
  • Cabernet Franc: Cabernet Franc variety comes from blue-black skinned grapes and is used for red wines. Its taste and aromas range from cassis, blackberry and spice to fresh herb, violet and tobacco. This variety is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon with a more peppery flavor. It also one of the main black varieties in the world.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon or Cab: Cabernet Sauvignon variety comes from black skinned grapes and it is used for red wines. Its wines tend to be full-bodied and dark colored. According to the climate this variety grows, its taste and aromas range from green pepper bell notes and mint to black cherry and black olive notes to jam (cool-medium-hot climate). Due to its high acidity, the wines coming from that variety have great aging potential.

red grape varieties-99wines

  • Gamay: Gamay is a purple-colored variety that comes from black skinned grapes and it is used for red wines. Its aromas have the notes of lilac and violet and it is characterized from the flavors of cherry, strawberry and banana. The banana flavor is a result of a special process while the wine is made, and it is called carbonic maceration.  Its full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc.
  • Malbec: Malbec variety comes from black-skinned grapes, purple variety of grapes and it is used for red wines. According to the place of growth, the taste and aromas of wines coming from this variety, range from blackberry, black cherry, cocoa powder and leather ( Argentina) to  black plum, tart currant, black pepper and spice(France).
  • Merlot: Merlot variety is used for red wines and comes from black-skinned grapes. Depending on the climate of growth (cool or warm), the taste and aromas of this variety range from black cherry, raspberry and plum to cedar, tobacco and vanilla. Red fruits and a soft finish are some of the main characteristics of Merlot.  Merlot wine can be used for both varietal wines (single variety wines) and blends (wines where more than one variety is included).
  • Nebbiolo: Nebbiolo variety comes from black skinned grapes and it is used for red wines. Its taste and aromas can range from tar and roses to raspberries, truffles and tobacco, depending to the age of the wine. Nebbiolo (Italian) or Nebieul (Piedmontese) is a grape variety mainly associated with the region Piedmont where it makes the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines of Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Gattinara and Ghemme.

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  • Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir is a black-skinned grape variety and it is used for red wines. Its taste and aromas range from red fruits like cherry and raspberry to vanilla, licorice, tobacco and caramel. This variety is greatly associated with Burgundy of France while it tends to grow around the world mostly in cooler regions.
  • Shiraz or Syrah: Shiraz or Syrah variety is primarily used for red wines and it comes from black-skinned grapes.  According to the region of growth, its taste and aromas range from blackberry, blueberry and black olive to vanilla, herbs and smoke. Moreover, this variety has great potential of aging.
  • Tempranillo: Tempranillo is a black-skinned grape variety, used for red wines and its origin lies in Spain. Its taste and aromas range from cherry, plum and strawberry to leather, tobacco and vanilla. Some of the places, where this variety is grown around the world, are Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Portugal and Canada.
  • Zinfandel: Zinfandel variety, also known as Primitivo, comes from black skinned grapes and it is used for the creation of red wines. Its taste and aromas range from blueberry, black pepper and plum to licorice, spice and tobacco. It is widely grown in California, United States of America.

That was nice…but…

red grape varieties-99wines

How about we check some interesting facts relevant to these wines?

Hmm…Why not?

  • Barbera is almost one thousand years older than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the parental grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon or Cab is considered to be the king of red wine varieties as it can grow almost everywhere and anyhow without any bad reactions to climate, a fact that makes it preferable and mostly used.
  • Gamay is widely known as Beaujolais, after the region, where its origins lie in France. Quite notable is the fact that Gamay resembles some of the characteristics of Pinot Noir.
  • Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot are widely known as some of the grape varieties used for the famous Red Bordeaux wine.
  • Although Malbec is grown all over the world, Argentina is the lead country of the variety’s growth.
  • The name Merlot comes from the French word merle, which means blackbird, probably due to the color of the grape.
  • Nebbiolo is a neglected grape variety around the world as it requires the perfect climate of Piedmont to thrive. Outside this very region, the same climate is difficult to reproduce.
  • Pinot noir is called the “heartbreak” grape, as it is thin-skinned and susceptible to a variety of diseases, which makes it difficult to grow.
  • Syrah is the name of the variety in its country of origin France but also in Europe, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the US while the name Shiraz is popular in Australia.
  • Tempranillo variety tends to be more neutral comparing to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
  • According to research, Zinfandel originates in Croatia and it became famous in Italy during the Roman Empire. It only came to California in the early 1800s.

red grape varieties-99wines

Well, here you are!

Now you have some further details about the origin, the flavors and the aromas that make the above varieties, the greatest and most preferable among the Red grape varieties!

Maybe the above seem to be a bit general, but I think it’s a good start to get going! Don’t you?

Whether you think I am right or wrong, I would be happy to read and reply to your comments regarding this post… and if you liked it, well… it would be great to see you share it…