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Complete Red Wine Buying Guide 2023: Types, Pairings, and Regions

Complete Red Wine Buying Guide: Types, Pairings, and Regions

When selecting red wine, there are many classic grape varieties available, and the taste of each will vary depending on the maker and region of origin.

At Thirst, we know that choosing the right red wine can be daunting. That’s why we created our Complete Red Wine Buying Guide for 2023! We’ve done the research so you don’t have to – simply explore this guide to learn all about types of red wines, pairings, and regions around the world to discover the perfect red wine for your special occasions and everyday sipping.

Our Complete Red Wine Buying Guide for 2023 is full of helpful tips and information to help you select the perfect bottle. Whether you’re a red wine connoisseur or just getting started with your journey into the world of red wines, we guarantee you’ll find something interesting in this guide!

Relevance of Red Wine

Red wine is a great addition to any meal. Whether it’s a special occasion or a casual weeknight dinner, pairing the right red wine with your food can bring out flavors and enhance the overall experience. Red wines are also known for their health benefits.

Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart-healthy due to its high levels of antioxidants. Research has also suggested that red wine can improve digestion, reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, and even promote healthier skin.

Taste of Red Wine

While red wine typically has a sweet and dark flavor, its taste can vary depending on the individual’s palate and flavor perceptions. As a result, red wine enthusiasts often have differing opinions on its taste.

Different types of red wine can vary in bitterness and dryness. Wine enthusiasts consider red wine to be good when it has a balanced combination of sour, bitter, and sweet flavors. Although it’s rare, some red wine varieties may have spicy or salty notes.

Beginner wine tasters may assume that red wine will taste like grape juice because both are made from grapes. However, although some varieties have a slight resemblance to grape juice, most have distinct flavors that do not taste like grapes.

Fermentation is responsible for the sharp taste of wine as it changes sweet grape juice into alcohol. Red wine contains fruit flavors and other constituents that make it different from plain grape juice.

Understanding Red Wine Varieties and Their Food Pairings

When it comes to red wine, there are several varieties for every occasion. To best determine the perfect pairing, understanding the different types of red wines is key. From light and fruity Pinot Noir to robust and full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, each variety has its own flavor profile and food pairings:

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is recognized as one of the top grape varieties worldwide. It is frequently blended with cabernet franc and merlot and typically goes through oak aging.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine grape that grows everywhere except in the Northern fringes, like Germany. It is used in the fine red wines of the Médoc region in France, as well as in some of the best red wines from Australia, California, and Chile.

Food pairings:

Cabernet Sauvignon pairs best with red meat that is prepared simply.

2. Pinot Noir

Pinot noir, one of the noblest red wine grapes, is known to be difficult to grow and is rarely blended due to its tendency towards roughness.

The varietal wine is quite different from Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a delicate and fresh structure with very soft tannins due to the low amount of polyphenols. The wine emits fruity aromas of cherry, strawberry, and plum with hints of tea leaves, damp earth, or worn leather.

Food pairings:

Grilled salmon, chicken, lamb, and Japanese dishes (especially sushi rolls) pair exceptionally well with them.

3. Merlot

Merlot is a good option for people who are starting to explore red wines because it has a soft taste. It usually smells like black cherry, plums, and herbs. 

The texture of Merlot is smooth, but it might have a gap in the middle of the flavor. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot has fewer tannins which makes it less rough.

Food pairings:

Any food will do just great!

4. Syrah/Shiraz

Syrah or Shiraz are actually the same grape variety, but in Europe, it is typically called syrah. This variety has a distinct flavor profile, with aromas and flavors of wild black fruit like blackcurrant, along with hints of black pepper spice and roasted meat. The strong fruit taste is often balanced out by a warm alcohol sensation and strong tannins.

Food pairings:

It is best to pair it with meat such as steak, beef, wild game, stews, and so on.

5. Malbec

The taste and properties of Malbec wine can vary significantly based on its location and production methods. Typically, it results in a richly colored and flavorful wine with hints of plums, berries, and spices that is easy to drink.

Bordeaux-style wines often blend Malbec with other varieties like cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot. These blends, including Malbec, may offer some health benefits.

Food pairings:

If you want to have wine with meat-based meals, including foie gras, Argentine Malbec goes well with Mexican, Cajun, and Indian dishes.

Exploring Renowned Red Wine Regions

1. Bordeaux, France

Attention wine lovers who also enjoy traveling: Do not overlook the city of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is a region in southwestern France that is famous for its rich history and exceptional wines. While it is well-known for its red wines, it also produces noteworthy white wines. Consider visiting this top wine region in the world in 2020.

Bordeaux uses three main red wine grapes: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Unlike Burgundy, which solely uses Pinot Noir in its red wines, Bordeaux blends different grapes to produce its red wines. Bordeaux’s white wines are renowned for their use of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

2. Tuscany, Italy

This region in Central Italy is a must-visit for wine lovers and everyone else as it is home to world-class wines, majestic hills, and Renaissance art.

Tuscany is where the dry Chianti originated, made mostly from Sangiovese grapes. The Chianti Classico wine region was the first established zone in the world and is located between Florence and Siena. 

In addition to Chianti, Tuscany is also recognized for other red wines such as Carmignano and Elba Aleatico Passito. Tuscany’s picturesque landscape, boasting elevated vineyards and rolling hills, is visually stunning. The region is also famous for its exquisite food.

3. Napa Valley, California

When people hear “Napa Valley,” they usually think of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines, which are popular there. However, Napa Valley is actually one large American Viticultural Area (AVA), which contains 16 smaller regions with unique microclimates and grape varieties.


What are the main flavors of red wine?

The main flavors of red wines vary depending on the type. Generally, popular flavors include dark fruits like cherries and blackberries, spices such as pepper and clove, bell peppers, leather, tobacco, and oak.

What is the healthiest red wine?

Red wine is often considered to be healthier than white wine since it has higher levels of antioxidants. Studies suggest that moderate red wine consumption can help reduce the risk of heart disease and other illnesses. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah/Shiraz are all relatively healthy varieties of red wine.

Which wine is good for sleep?

Red wine can improve sleep quality because it contains melatonin. Drinking one glass in the evening can increase melatonin release in your body, which leads to a more restful night’s sleep.

Is it safe to drink red wine every day?

Consuming red wine in moderation is generally considered safe. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. However, it is important to keep in mind that the health effects of drinking alcohol vary from person to person. 

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