Types of red wine

Red wine is sumptuous, decadent and dependably versatile. Struggling to choose? We’re on hand to give you the insight you need.

people drinking red wine

Red wine and a cold winter’s eve go hand-in-hand, and yet it can be just as perfect to drink on a pleasant summer’s day if you choose the right bottle. There are literally hundreds of different varieties on the market, which can make picking out the perfect one pretty difficult.

Between light-bodied, full-bodied and medium-bodied variations, from an astounding array of regions and an ever larger array of grape wine options, finding the red that’s right for you is becoming increasingly tricky.

We’re here to help! We’ll take you on an exploration of the characterising flavours, best countries of origin and those signature trademarks to look out for when shopping for the UK’s favourite red wines.

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is adored for its earthy, savoury staple qualities. This grape is at its best when grown in the Loire Valley or the Libournais region of Bordeaux.

Some of the flavours of Cabernet Franc are reminiscent of coffee, earth and black olives, whilst there are also seductive shades of violets and blueberries. This flirty, fragrant grape is one of the key reds used in Bordeaux blends.

Fabre Montmayou Reservado Cabernet Franc 2015
Fabre Montmayou Reservado Cabernet Franc 2015

Laithwaites

Koha Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc
Koha Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc

Marks & Spencer

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is commonly regarded as one of the world’s finest red wine grapes. It is grown in the prestigious French wine region of Médoc, as well as being successfully grown in Australia, California and Chile.

Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied and captivating at an early age. But unlike other wines, it does not improve with age. In fact, it deteriorates. Flavours of rich currants, cassis and black cherries offer a decadent quality, whilst subtle hints of peppers and notes of herbs and olives give this UK favourite its signature earthy finish.

Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Laithwaites

Gamay

Gamay is the great grape of Beaujolais. It’s best when consumed at a young age, and its usual characteristics are the vibrant and zesty flavours of strawberries, raspberries, and luscious ripe cherries.

This wine is the perfect red to pick out on a warm summer’s day. Its fruity flavours and sensual aromas offer a delightful, palate pleasing refreshment on a lazy summertime afternoon.

Brouilly Domaine Tavian
Brouilly Domaine Tavian

Cellar by Waitrose & Partners

Grenache

Truly great Grenache grapes are grown in both Spain and Australia, as well as some wine regions in France.

Due to its early ripening, the Grenache grape is consistently high in alcohol and low in acidity. When the wine is at its best it achieves a full and fruity flavour, with just the right dash of spice to tantalise your tastebuds. It pairs perfectly with most meat courses including beef, chicken, pork and game.

Simpsons of Servian Grenache Syrah Mourvedre 2016
Simpsons of Servian Grenache Syrah Mourvedre 2016

Naked Wines

Malbec

Malbec is a firm favourite with UK red wine lovers. If you’re looking for an awesome bottle for an evening tipple in front of the TV, choose one that originates from Argentina. The flavours are considered superior to the harsher varieties that hail from France.

An Argentinian Malbec offers a soft and juicy indulgence with strikingly flavoursome undertones of raspberry, and mulberry. This wine’s flavours are enhanced by ageing in new oak barrels.

Fairtrade® Monteflores Reserve Malbec
Fairtrade® Monteflores Reserve Malbec

Marks & Spencer

Merlot

Even if you know nothing about red wine, chances are you’ve heard of Merlot. This is the UK’s go-to when it comes to reds, and the best Merlot grapes are grown in Bordeaux in France, and Tuscany, Italy.

Merlot is a crowd-pleasing red. The grape itself is soft, succulent and easy on the eyes. The majority of Merlots are easy to drink, can be paired with food or indulged on their own. If you’re new to red wines, Merlot is a great place to start.

Château Tour Guillotin & Château la Roseraie Dumont
Château Tour Guillotin & Château la Roseraie Dumont

Marks & Spencer

Mourvedre

Mourvedre is one of the primary grapes produced in the Rhône. If Cabernet Sauvignon is what you’d consider the perfect red, then Mourvedre is right up your street.

Mourvedre is rural wine with many rustic qualities and a full bodied flavour. The flavours that give the wine its personality include fruits such as plums, blueberries and blackberries as well as well as underlying essences of black pepper and smoke. Pair Mourvedre with rich and flavoursome foods that will soak up the tannins.

Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is for lovers of big, bold, reds. The best bottles come from Northern Italy’s Piedmont wine region. The grape itself is known for the dynamic, full-bodied, and tannic wines it elicits.

Flavour fusions of cherry pie and rich plums with subtle undertones of anise work their magic to create a dramatic taste sensation that will last long after your final sip. Nebbiolo is a grape that has been around since the 13th century, so if you’ve yet to try a bottle, there’s no time like the present.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is another favourite for red wine enthusiasts. Although the grape itself is fairly difficult to cultivate, it grows successfully in Bourgogne, France and there’s definitely something to be said about those wines that originate in Austria, the states of California and Oregon in the US, and New Zealand.

The overall structure of Pinot Noir is gentle, light and refreshing. The tannins are extremely gentle and the scents are full of life. On the palate, you’ll experience a fruit filled infusion with a combination of cherries, strawberries and plums. Wine connoisseurs will detect underlying tones of leaf tea, moist earth, and occasionally subtle hints of leather.

Sangiovese

Sangiovese is a red wine grape that’s grown in Italy. Due to the versatility of the grape, there are many variations that have adapted to suit their surroundings throughout Italy, which results in dramatically different tasting wines.

Sangiovese is a savoury wine that presents a couple of general fundamental characteristics. No matter where the grapes originate, Sangiovese wine features prominent flavours of cherry and subtle essences of tomato. However the accompanying flavours can sway between earthy and rural, and full and fruity depending on where the wine originated.

Shiraz

Shiraz is another go-to for red wine fanatics. Shiraz grapes grow to their best potential in California (US), areas of Australia, and of course, in France’s Rhône Valley.

The aromas and flavours envelop wild black fruits like blackcurrants. Shiraz grapes help to create red wines that are full of spice and body. Some of the flavours that can be achieved with exceptional Shiraz grapes are unrivalled.

Zinfandel

Zinfandel is a great transitional choice for those who are new to red wine. California is the place where the Zinfandel grape originated, although it’s now cultivated all along the west coast of USA, as well as in Australia, Italy and other locations across the globe.

Some vineyards produce fairly rustic wines with subtle flavours of spice. Other Zinfandels can be lively and heavily flavoured with raspberries. This fruity, fragrant red is packed with tannins, and a powerful, spicy edge.

Frog's Leap Cellars, Zinfandel 2012
Frog's Leap Cellars, Zinfandel 2012

Fortnum & Mason

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