Savor this versatile red with pasta dishes
topped with meat or mushroom sauce. Barbera ranges from medium-bodied and
tangy to wines of great richness and depth. Its naturally high acidity refreshes the palate,
which makes it an excellent wine to serve with food. Black plum and dark cherry fruit flavors
dominate, with notes of licorice and chocolate.
Cabernet franc, a close relation to cabernet
sauvignon, goes well with simple beef and
chicken dishes. The main red varietal of
France’s Loire Valley, it produces light- to medium-bodied wines with earthy black fruit
flavors, and hints of cinnamon spice.
Hearty and full-flavored, cabernet sauvignon goes well with steaks,
stews, and hamburgers. It is the biggest
bodied of the traditional Bordeaux varietals, popular worldwide due to its dark berry,
blackcurrant, and plum fruits, mild green pepper aroma, and vanilla oakiness from barrel
Medium-bodied carmenere pairs well with grilled lamb and
beef. It is subtly lush, with aromas ranging from green peppers to zesty, peppery spice
and very soft, plummy fruit. Oak aging often adds vanilla, woody notes.
Dolcetto can be a nice sipping wine, especially served with hard cheeses and mixed vegetable appetizers. Generally from Italy and meant to be
consumed when still young and fresh, dolcetto is usually light- to medium-bodied, soft (very
low in natural acidity), aromatic, and fruity with notes of violets, licorice, plums, and
Grenache tends to have low acidity, light strawberry flavors, and a warm, mouth-filling
richness that goes well with lamb, pork,
chicken, eggplant, and garlicky dishes. When blended with Syrah (as is often
done throughout southern France) they form a balanced whole with grenache softening and Syrah
Malbec pairs well with grilled meats and sausages. It is usually full-bodied and softly
textured with smoky red fruit flavors (cherry liqueur, raspberry) and often a pronounced oaky
spiciness. This traditional Bordeaux varietal is now mainly found in Argentina.
Merlot is a versatile red that complements
beef, chicken, and pork. Flavors of cherry and plum in a medium-bodied,
velvety package make this a popular crowd-pleaser. Merlot is similar to cabernet sauvignon, but softer (less acidic) and
Flavors of deep cherry, blackberry, and chocolate make this medium- to full-bodied red a
popular choice for everyday drinking. Typically smooth, fruity, and lush for an Italian red,
it makes an excellent complement to traditional southern Italian foods, such as rich tomato
pasta sauces, sausages, and meats.
Hearty stews and meat dishes are wonderful complements to this wine. An
important blending varietal in southern France and Spain, it has firmly structured body with
intense fruit and aromas, which evoke blackberry and wet earth.
Grown almost exclusively in Italy, Nebbiolo’s earthy nuance of mushroom, freshly
tilled soil, black licorice spice, and herbaceous floral notes pair well with hearty foods
like braised lamb shanks, pot roast, and dishes with mushroom sauces. This is a powerful, high-acid,
high-tannin varietal that often needs many years of aging before it can be fully
Similar to zinfandel, this hearty, firm red
goes well with barbecue and meat dishes. Generally agreed to have no relation to true syrah,
petit sirah is typically earthy and full of heady black fruits, brambly spice, and a
One of the lightest of the red varietals, pinot noir goes well with a range of foods
including lamb, chicken,
pork, and rich fish dishes such as salmon. Its versatility also makes it a nice
choice for vegetarian dishes or a range of cheeses. It is characteristically light- to
medium-bodied with cherry fruit and lively acidity. Valued for its finesse and elegance, it is
the only varietal allowed in French Burgundy and is the most important red in New Zealand and
Pinotage goes well with pork and chicken dishes. A cross between pinot noir and French
cinsault, this South African hybrid’s distinct, pungent flavor can have wild berry,
floral spice, and simple grapey notes.
This medium-bodied wine can seem thin on its own, but pairs wonderfully with many
dishes—especially Italian. Think pasta
and red sauce, pizza, a variety of Italian-style
cheese, such as mozzarella and Parmesan. Most often sold as Chianti, a region of
Tuscany, Italy, where they grow mainly sangiovese grapes, it produces red fruit flavors
(cherry, raspberry) and mild earthy spice notes. Its high acidity cuts through the oils in
food, which refreshes the palate.
Syrah & Shiraz
Syrah—known as Shiraz in Australia—produces big, fruity wines that go well with
spicy barbeque and grilled meats. Australian
Shiraz is usually very soft (less acidic) and richly flavored, full of blackberry and peppery
spice. Syrah from the United States and Chile are similar, but toned down a bit. Those from
France’s Rhone Valley are higher in acid and therefore more enjoyable with food than on
their own and are traditionally served with hearty main courses, such as stews and
Found mainly in Spain and Portugal, tempranillo’s flavors of black fruits, mild
berries (such as blueberry and blackberry), and spiciness are a nice complement to smoked or
grilled vegetables and meats. It is often aged in oak for many years, which
can add notes of vanilla oak, cedar, toast, and dried fruits.
Zinfandels are big, brash wines that go well with barbecue and strongly flavored dishes.
Produced almost exclusively in California, most boast a zesty spiciness and a freshly picked
berry juiciness. They are naturally high in sugar and tend to be very fruity and relatively
high in alcohol.