One of the sources of confusion about different wine types is due to the different labelling of wine from different parts of the world.
In America and other parts of the “New World” (for example, Californian wines), wine is typically labelled according to the variety of grape (such as “Cabernet Sauvignon”).
However, in Europe, wine is labelled by the region where the wine was produced (for instance, “Rioja” which is a Spanish wine made primarily from the Tempranillo grape).
Furthermore, many types of wine are actually blends of grape varieties, with brand names invented by the winery. Often, though not always, the label will indicate the types of grapes in the blend.
Types of red wine from around the world
While it’s impossible to list every red wine in the world, there are many common reds to learn about.
Bordeaux – France
Bordeaux wines must come from the Bordeaux appellation of France. Labelling and winemaking laws govern the types of grapes that can be used to produce Bordeaux wines. Red Bordeaux wines coming out of one of the best-known wine regions in the world are rich and complex.
Grapes found in Bordeaux blends include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot and Carménère.
Burgundy (Bourgogne) – France
Burgundy wines are another French-labelled wine named after the region in which they are produced and governed by labelling and winemaking laws. Red Burgundies are complex and have flavours of ripe dark berries. They are some of the most expensive and sought-after wines in the world. While Burgundy is primarily Pinot Noir, it may also have some Gamay grapes blended in for balance.
Beaujolais – France
Beaujolais is a sub-appellation of Bourgogne in France. There are two types of labelled red Beaujolais: Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais. Both are fruity wines meant to be drunk fairly young. The primary grape used in Beaujolais is the Gamay grape.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a sub-appellation in the Southern Rhône region of France. It is almost always a blend of grapes, although you can find a few Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines that are made strictly from the Grenache grape. It’s a smoky, earthy, lightly fruity wine that pairs well with food and can have good ageing structure.
Côtes du Rhône – France
A Rhône Valley AOC* wine, the blended Côtes du Rhône is affordable, spicy, and full-bodied, making it a great table wine.
(*The term appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) means “controlled designation of origin” in French.)
There are many varieties of grapes allowed in Côtes du Rhône, although at least 40&% must be Grenache noir.
Côte-Rôtie – France
Another Rhône Valley AOC wine, Côte-Rôtie is spicy, elegant, and fragrant. They are complex wines with pleasant red berry fruitiness.
Hermitage – France
Hermitage is also an AOC in the Rhône Valley, and it produces big, collectable reds that can be aged for decades. These are rich, savoury wines with flavours such as black fruits and leather.
Chianti – Italy
Chianti comes from Italy’s Tuscany in the Piedmont region. It is a DOCG* region with many sub-regions.
(*DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, which under Italian wine law is the highest designation of quality among Italian wines.)
Chianti, which must contain 70% to 80% Sangiovese, is a fruity, medium-bodied, acidic wine that pairs really well with spicy foods and tomato sauce. It is perfect for Italian cuisine such as pasta and pizza.
Barolo/Barbaresco – Italy
Barolo and Barbaresco are two DOCG regions in Piedmont with one big thing in common: the Nebbiolo grape. The wines are big and tannic and made to age for years; but they’re also surprisingly delicate with medium-bodied fruit flavours such as strawberry. Barolo is often referred to as the “king of wines,” and the wine can be quite expensive and sought after.
Brunello di Montalcino – Italy
Sometimes just called Brunello, Brunello di Montalcino is a DOCG wine grown in Montalcino in Tuscany. It is made up of 100% Sangiovese and local Sangiovese clones. It is acidic with medium tannins and flavours such as sour cherry and figs.
Rioja – Spain
Rioja is Spain’s most famous wine. It has strong tannins with fruity flavours such as cherry. Rioja’s main grape is Tempranillo.