Sometimes it’s hard to believe that one small piece of fruit can vary so much, and just like with white grapes, the same holds true for red grapes, as well. Even though there are dozens upon dozens of varieties of red grape, below are just some of the major red varieties. Five, to be more precisely.
Pinot Noir originates in Burgundy but can also call places like Tasmania and New Zealand home and is often considered to be the lightest of all the red grape varieties. Flavours and aromas again can vary, but usually are reminiscent of raspberry and strawberry while having spicy and earthy aromas.
Just like Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are essentially the same, Shiraz and Syrah are essentially the same with the differences lying only in their styles and origins. Syrah has much more spice and is a leaner and elegant Old World type of grape while Shiraz is a fruitier and more oaky New World star.
Syrah has characteristics that range from plum to red currants with a lot of spice while Shiraz is a rich and intense wine that will remind you of raspberry, cedar and earth. Both varieties are quite intense in their own right, though and sometimes need an acquired taste for strong, powerful fruity and spicy wines to be fully appreciated.
Cabernet Sauvignon is native to France’s Bordeaux region and aside from being one of the most established in grape growing regions around the world, it is also considered by many the leader of red wines.
This is also in part due to their thick skins and high acidity having created some of the best and oldest red wines around. Having an amazing universal appeal, Cabernet Sauvignon has a variety of flavours and aromas. These aromas can vary from leather and mint to fruity such as cherry and plum and contribute to the full body feeling that this wine is known for.
A well known wine, Merlot often runs neck in neck with that of Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is grown all over the world including countries such as Australia and America but originating in France.
With flavours that can be on the fence between lightweight and medium bodied, Merlot’s flavours tend to be full of plum fruit flavours with little tannin. One of the more drinkable varieties, Merlot is a quick favourite with people who have just started acquiring a taste for red wine.
Perhaps not as popular in most parts of the world, Zinfandel (also known as Zin) has definitely found it’s calling in the United States where in the Napa Valley it has had huge success in creating some amazing wines.
Zinfandels are known to create wines varying from light bodied to full-on power houses to sweet dessert wines and ports. A fact that many people are starting to become aware of is that Zinfandel and Primitivo from Italy are not different varieties but are, in fact, twins.
While there are many more varieties of red grape that were not touched upon such as Tempranillo, Grenache or Pinot Meunier, the above list will hopefully shed some light on the many varieties of red grapes that can be used to produce red wine as even a basic knowledge of grapes will greatly enhance your ability to understand and appreciate a bottle of good wine.