Figuring out what the best tasting red wine is, admittedly, a bit subjective. If you’ve ever read wine reviews from different people, you can tell that everyone tastes things a bit different. Everyone also has different preferences. Even your mood can affect what kind of wine you prefer. Certain food pairs better with certain kinds of wine.
Because of all these factors, picking the best red wine for you can be quite a challenge. It’s even more formidable when you’re trying to choose a wine for a special occasion or a romantic evening. Walking down the wine aisle of your local grocery or liquor store is often overwhelming, with a variety of names and labels all but throwing themselves at you.
Reading the backs of the labels isn’t necessarily much of a help at all if you don’t have a lot of experience with red wine. “Hints of tobacco.” Is that a selling point? “Tastes of chocolate.” Well, that’s nice? “Oaky.” What? “An excellent example of a Malbec.” Huh?
This guide is here to help you. We’ve picked out some of the best tasting red wine bottles for different kinds of red wine. These wines are widely available and we’ve tried to keep them at a good medium price range—enough to be able to taste their excellence on a special occasion, but not so much that you have to check your bank account before you buy them.
Malbec is a red wine that’s become more popular in recent years. Much of it comes from Argentina, though Malbec vines originated in France. Malbec red wine is intense and usually a purple-tinted red color. Its taste is quite soft for a red, with some nice juicy, fruity notes. Malbec works well with a variety of different kinds of food, so it’s a good all-around wine, though it probably works best with BBQ and sausage.
One of the best Malbec wines you’ll find is the Catena Alta Malbec. It’s from Argentina. It’s very full-bodied, with that characteristic Malbec intense personality. There are hints of spice and plum in it. This bottle is a prize that may just ruin you for many cheaper Malbecs. You can also typically get it for under $50.
Cabernet Sauvignon, often referred to as ‘Cab’, is one of the most diverse red wines and the most popular red wine in the United States. It’s grown in many places, though it is French in origin, like pretty much all wine. It lends itself to a winemaker’s creativity, though there are some constants. Most Cabs are barrel aged in oak, something that brings out the best in this kind of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied and has a medium level of acidity. It’s not sweet, with tastes of things like green pepper and cherries, as well as vanilla for some taste buds. That vanilla flavor is a sign of oak’s influence and is what is meant by a wine having an oaky flavor. Pair Cabernet Sauvignon with steak for a delightful evening.
Cabs can be quite pricey, with high-end ones running more than $100 or $200 easily, but the Titus Cabernet Napa should only be somewhere around $50 in most areas. Don’t let the price tag fool you, however, as this is an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. It is strong and smooth, with hints of dark fruit and chocolate. On occasion, you need to let Cabs air to get their full taste, but this one is good right out of the bottle. This is an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, perfect for romantic nights with a couple of steaks or holiday dinners with a fancy roast.
In French, the name Merlot means ‘Little Blackbird’. It’s a fitting name for the second most popular red wine in the U.S. Merlots are ripe, soft, and easy to drink, with a richness that makes it a true pleasure on winter evenings. It’s one of the most approachable wines out there, red or white, and it’s probably the best way to introduce someone to wine. Merlot naturally originates in France, but it’s common to find Merlot red wine from wherever wine grapes are grown. It pairs well with a number of different kinds of food, but it is also very pleasant to sip alone.
The Emmolo Merlot Napa is one of the best Merlots you’ll find. It’s got this red wine variety’s richness in spades, but it manages not to be too much. You’ll probably be able to taste plum, a bit of chocolate, and a slight smokiness. It goes down smoothly. Enjoy it on its own or with food that complements its natural richness.
Zinfandel can be red or white, though here we’re going to discuss the red version. It’s often called Zin, the nickname that launched a thousand puns. It’s a very popular red wine in the U.S. and a lot of it comes from California. This also makes California Zin fairly cheap. The grape actually originated in Croatia, not France. Zinfandel is a big and ripe red wine. Californian varieties have been exposed to a lot of sun, so they tend to have a jammy and fruity taste. Zins pair well with poultry and game fowl, especially if they are in a heavy or spicy sauce.
The Seghesio Zinfandel Home Ranch is a spectacular Zinfandel. It’s a Californian Zin from Sonoma Valley, with the rich fruitiness characteristic of the region. There’s also hints of cherry, licorice, and white pepper. It’s got a long, lingering taste, too. Enjoy it with some Southwestern-style chicken for a pleasant dining experience.
Pinot Noir has some very dedicated fans. It’s a hard grape to grow and has come to be associated with wine snobs. However, take Pinot Noir for what it actually is. It tends to have red berry or cherry flavors, with an earthy element to every sip. More subtle Pinot Noirs tend to come from France, while richer and bolder ones tend to come from the many other places where the grape is grown.
The Patz and Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coas is an excellent example of a Californian Pinot Noir. It’s got a juicy flavor, reminiscent of cherries and strawberries, with plenty of that Pinot Noir earthiness. It’s got a nice texture to it, with both richness and acidity.
Syrah & Shiraz
Syrah and Shiraz are the same wine. The mix up originates in Australia, where words start doing different things when they show up for some reason. Aussie winemakers called the French grape Syrah ‘Shiraz’ and the name stuck because it’s fun to say. Syrah/Shiraz is one of the darkest red wines. It will feel heavy on your tongue and tends to have some very vivid flavors, like pepper, tobacco, and smoked meat, of all things. It pairs wonderfully with a variety of meat.
The Amon-Ra Shiraz Barossa Valley is wonderful. It’s got a deep, rich flavor to match its dark color. This is a powerful red wine, but it still retains some balance so it doesn’t completely knock out your taste buds. If you’re looking to try an Aussie Shiraz, this is an excellent buy. Sip it at night while relaxing.
Red blends are red wines made through combinations of different red wines. They have a variety of tastes, from bold to subtle, complex to comforting. They’re very common out of American vineyards, especially in the Southwest, where the harsher weather conditions limit the number of vines that survive to be harvested. B
Because red blends are so diverse, picking out a ‘best’ is a challenge and highly subjective. There are so many great ones, but here’s a recommendation. This wine is not as common as many others on this list, but it is excellent.
The Caduceus Anubis comes from Arizona, of all places, and is dark and powerful. It’s a stunning blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine called Cabernet Franc, and just a bit of another called Petite Syrah. It’s potent but not with complexities. Pair it with steak! Preferably a good one, cooked just right, because this wine will highlight the steak and the steak will highlight the wine.
There are many more kinds of red wine out there, and many, many excellent labels. Let us know what your pick for best red wine is!