Red wine tasting: the most popular varieties

Nowadays there are about 10,000 grape varieties worldwide. Of course, it is impossible to know them all. But if you decide to understand the wine at least a little bit, go for a red wine tasting, choose a drink for a holiday or a picnic, feel like an expert on a trip to the wine region – it’s nice to know at least the basic varieties.

The number of grape varieties is not calculable. Since more and more new ones are constantly being developed. In total there are about 10 to 20 thousand grape varieties now.

Cabernet Sauvignon

This variety occupies the largest vineyard area on our planet. Cabernet Sauvignon is great for aging. The homeland of this variety is Bordeaux, one of the most famous wine regions in the world. But in Bordeaux, you are unlikely to find wine only from Cabernet Sauvignon. Usually, local winemakers produce blend here, that is, they use several grape varieties. In Bordeaux, most often it is Cabernet Sauvignon, its relative Cabernet Franc and the equally famous Merlot. 

Cabernet Sauvignon always brings astringency, body, density to wine. To soften it, they usually use Merlot or Cabernet Franc. The wines from Cabernet Sauvignon are always rich, well-colored, because this grape has a thick skin. The characteristic aromas for this variety will be dark berries (black currant, blackberry), paprika, licorice, cedar.


The homeland of this variety is also the French region of Bordeaux, where it is used in the classic Bordeaux blend. Merlot brings a rich color, harmonious body. In the aroma, you recognize it by the notes of dominant red berries (raspberries, red currants, cherries), plums, violets. But do not be surprised if you find some fried and smoky aromas, as well as the smells of pepper and mushrooms in wines with Merlot content. This variety acquires such notes with the aging, especially in its classic Bordeaux region. Merlot is not as tart as Cabernet Sauvignon, so these varieties are often used together. They are like best friends: a little different, but perfectly complement each other. 

This variety is also very common throughout the world, especially a lot of its plantings in Bordeaux (both right and left banks), Languedoc (France), California (USA), Chile, Australia, South Africa. But you can also find excellent wines from Merlot in countries such as New Zealand, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, China.

Pinot Noir

The most sophisticated and whimsical variety. Like a rose from the Little Prince: delicate, vulnerable, but with character, can manifest its “spikes” if necessary. Pinot Noir is a red variety of Burgundy, the second very famous and prestigious wine region of France. For many people, wines from this variety are the most beloved. They are more difficult to understand, they are lighter, but also more refined than Bordeaux. Pinot Noir is also one of the red grapes for the production of champagne (they also use the red Meunier and the white Chardonnay). 

The variety is whimsical to weather conditions, likes a cooler climate.  Therefore it is less common than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Most often used in single variety wines (wines from the same grape variety). You will find excellent examples of Pinot Noir from Burgundy (France), the Loire Valley (France), California (USA), Australia, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, as well as even Japan and New Zealand.


Syrah (aka Shiraz)

The homeland of this variety is rather unknown. Some are inclined to the Iranian city of Shiraz (hence the name), others to Syracuse in Italy. There are other versions. In France, Syrah is a variety of the northern part of the Rhone Valley. This variety ripens early and produces very spicy, rich wines. By the way, both the names Syrah and Shiraz are common. The first is used in the Old World, and the second in the New World. So excellent wines from Shiraz are made in Australia, South Africa, California, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina.


It is probably the most famous Spanish variety. It was glorified by the Spanish region of Rioja, one of the most prestigious on the Iberian Peninsula. Tempranillo matures quite quickly. By the way, its name is translated from Spanish as “early”. Tempranillo gives structure, saturation, astringency to its wines. Aromas of berries mixed with the smell of leather and tobacco.


The most famous wines from this variety are produced in Argentina (especially Mendoza). But the birthplace of Malbec is the south-west of France, the Cahors region. These are rich, tart, full-bodied wines with the aromas of cherries, notes of chocolate and spices.

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