5 of The Most Popular Red Wine Grape Varieties
Author: Rob Withrow
September 24, 2020
As you’ve learned, there are many different styles of wine, and within each type, there are hundreds of wine varieties. There’s Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Merlot—the list goes on. Some of these wines are made with only one grape, while others have a mixture of several. That said, if you want to understand more about the scrumptious red wines you’re drinking, you’ll want to look at what makes up the wine. Below you’ll find some of the most popular red wine grape varieties.
Probably the most popular red wine grape on this list, Cabernet Sauvignon’s home is found in the Bordeaux wine region. You’ll also find an abundance of this grape in Napa Valley and Australia’s Coonawarra wine region. Both are fierce competitors of France’s grape production.
These grapes grow well in humid regions and are typically deep red in color with moderate acidity.
Mmm, we love a nice Pinot Noir in the fall. The grape itself is included in the general Pinot family, which includes Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Meunier. You’ll find this grape in abundance in the Burgundy wine region of France, but what’s interesting is that Pinot Noir was first created in two different villages in the region, which led to two grapes that differ widely. Therefore, you may notice some Pinot Noirs are quite different from one another.
The complexity and versatility of Pinot Noir are what so many countries love. It’s so universally loved that it’s grown in northern Italy, Germany, South Africa, Sonoma, Oregon, and so many other locations.
Though slightly less popular than the two above, Merlot is another grape variety that began in Bordeaux. In particular, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol are two stand-out locations for this grape. It’s the most planted grape in this region and presents itself as a dark blue grape that’s used heavily for its own wine, but also for blending.
Though they’re a bit more sensitive to the environment, Merlot grapes do have one benefit over a Cabernet grape—they ripen about two weeks faster. This is why so many locales try their best to plant this versatile grape.
This popular grape is among the oldest grapes grown in California, which is why Zinfandel is held in such high regard in this west coast state. Interestingly enough, for a long time, wine authorities couldn’t find the origins of this particular grape. In recent years, however, they were able to pinpoint that Zinfandel is actually a Croatian grape!
Zinfandel has a blackberry or raspberry flavor, depending on how ripe the grape is when harvested. It’s bold, fruit-forward, and thin-skinned, making for an easier harvest and a delicious wine.
Though Malbec originated in the southwest of France, it’s actually considered the national grape variety of Argentina. These grapes tend to be a bit softer and not as tannin-heavy as those found in France. Because of its success in Argentina, Chile has also increased its creation of high-quality Malbec wines.
Malbec has an inky dark color and robust tannins, which is why the singular variety of wine is so dry, yet so complex.
This is just a brief look at some of the different red wine grape varieties. There are over 20 different red wine grapes in Spain and Italy as well.