Popular Red Wines

Wine is produced all over the world from single varietal grape selections to popular varietal blends to please almost every palate, from the novice to the seasoned wine taster. Red wine happens to be the most popular choice the world over.

Barolo and Barbaresco

Derived from the Nebbiolo grape, Barolo wines are typically deep red with a thick and complex flavor that is sometimes flowery, reminiscent of violets and roses. Other flavors are fruit, licorice or oak. Barolo should be enjoyed at 60F and can age for 5-10 years. Barbaresco is a red wine that is more elegant and aromatic, though still powerful. In a way, Barbaresco is the younger brother of Barolo. Both of these red wines are made in the Piedmont region of Italy and pair well with grilled meats.

Beaujolais Nouveau

A very young, light, fruity wine meant to be served chilled, around 55F, with dominant flavors of strawberry and raspberry along with a grapey appeal that is virtually free of tannins. It is grown from the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region (part of Burgundy) of France. Beaujolais Nouveau is released annually on the third Thursday of November. In food pairing, it goes well with grilled or roasted meats both light and dark, a variety of pastas, salads and cheeses.

Cabernet Franc

Originally from the Bourdeaux and Loire Valley region, Cabernet Franc enjoys the growing climates of California, Washington State, Australia, Chile, Canada, and South Africa. It is a wonderfully fruity wine, having lower tannin levels and a more distinct flavor reminiscent of berry; mainly blueberry, raspberry and at times plum. Cabernet Franc is more subdued and softer than its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon and is sold as a single varietal. However, it is ideal for blending with its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Cabernet Franc is best served at 59-64F and pairs well with Mediterranean Greek and Middle Eastern dishes as well as poultry and pasta.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Originally from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon has a tremendous presence in the California wineries where the grape favors the warmer climate, and enjoys the popularity as the most sought after red wine. Cabernets are medium-bodied to full-bodied and characterized by a high tannin content which provides structure and intrigue to the wine and supporting flavors reminiscent of a rich, ripe berry, tobacco and sometimes green pepper. Cabernet Sauvignon is an ideal wine for aging, with 5-10 years being optimal for peak maturation. The longer maturation process allows the wine’s flavors to mellow, and makes the Cabernets ideal for blending with other grapes, primarily Merlot to add appealing fruit tones, without sacrificing character. Cabernet Sauvignon is best served at 59-64F, and pairs wonderfully with red meats, lamb, cheeses of strong flavor and dark chocolates.

Cotes du Rhone

Southeastern France’s Rhone Valley produces some of that country’s best bargain red wines offering good flavor, generally full-bodied with rich but smooth tanins, with plenty of food pairing options. Grenache, Syrah and Viognier are the primary varietals grown in the region. Red and rosé wines are made from Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourvèdre grape varieties. With the exception of Northern wines using a majority of Syrah, product must contain a minimum of 40% Grenache to be blended into the Côtes du Rhône. Best served at 59-64F and pairs well with game and other rich meat dishes.


Originating from Bordeaux France, Malbec is generally a grape used for blending. In the sun-drenched climate of Argentina, Malbec has found renewed appreciation and acclaim and has become Argentina’s signature grape producing a medium to full-bodied red wine. Malbec wine is reminiscent of ripe fruit flavors of plums and blackberry jam. The tannins are typically a bit tight with an earthy, wood appeal making for a fairly rustic wine that is quickly making a new name for itself with red wine lovers. Malbec is best served at 59-64F and pairs well with tomato-based sauces, Italian fare, red meat, Mexican, Cajun, and Indian dishes.


A soft, medium-bodied red wine with juicy fruit flavors reminiscent of plums, cherries, blueberries and blackberries mixed with black pepper tones. Tannin levels are fairly low. Merlot is a prime wine for consumers just getting into red wines. Merlot originated from the Bordeaux region of France and is often blended with other varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Blending Merlot with these wines mellows and softens the Cabernets. Merlot wines are very versatile with food pairings and are best served at 55- 60F degrees and enjoyed with poultry, red meat, pork, pastas, and salads.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a lighter flavored and colored red wine with flavors reminiscent of plums, tomatoes, cherries and red berries and, depending on the varietal’s growing conditions, an earthy or wood flavor. Pinot Noir is planted in California, Oregon, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, and other regions around the world. You are likely to pay a little more for Pinot Noir because it is produced in smaller quantities than most of the other popular red wine types. Pinot Noir is a versatile food wine best served at 55-60F, pairing well with spicy seasonings, creamy sauces, beef, ham, lamb, pork, poultry and fish.


Italy’s most commonly planted red grape varietal predominantly producing the popular wines Chianti and Chianti Classico, wines of medium- to full-body with a tannin structure range from medium-soft to firm, and a medium to high acidity content. Flavors associated with Sangiovese wines are reminiscent of cherry, plum, strawberry, cinnamon and vanilla with a finish that can range from elegant to bitter. Best served at 59-64F, Sangiovese varietal wine pairs well with chicken, red meat, fish, lamb, pork, pastas, stews or well-aged cheeses


Australia and South Africa call it Shiraz. In France, it is known and grown as Syrah, but it happens to be the same grape varietal that produces a deep-purple color and bold, spicy, red, medium- to full-bodied wines with firm tannins with rich flavors reminiscent of black cherry, blackberry, plum, bell pepper, black pepper, clove, licorice, dark chocolate and smoked meat. Best served at 59-64F, Shiraz/Syrah pairs wonderfully with spicy Mexican, Cajun and barbeque dishes, grilled fare, beef stews, red meats, even pizza and meat lasagna.


California’s #2 most widely planted red wine grape. Originating in Croatia, not southern Italy as previously thought, where it is a kin to the Primitivo grape . DNA “fingerprinting” recently proved that both Zinfandel and Primitivo are clones of the same grape. California is the largest grower of Zinfandel and produces various styles, ranging from a blackberry and black pepper, to light and juicy-fruity, to rich, elegant, oaked red with medium to high tannin levels and higher alcohol content. “Zin” is frequently blended with other grapes. Best served at 59F, Zinfandel pairs well with grilled red or white meat, fish, lamb, gorgonzola cheese and dark chocolate. Lighter Zinfandels can also pair well with rich, creamy pastas, rotisserie chicken, duck, baked Italian dishes like lasagna, cannelloni and Cajun to Asian fare.

The Best White Wines

Get To Know Wines From the Grapes

White wines add joy to any wine fan’s palate. They are crisp, fruity and refreshing and can be enjoyed by themselves or paired with a wide variety of foods. They are dry or sweet. Anyone can find a white wine they will thoroughly enjoy. The challenge for any new wine lover is how to become acquainted with the different types of white wine. There are so many different labels on the market it makes heads spin. The secret is to start with the grapes.

There are about twelve popular types of grapes used to make white wine throughout the word, and of those, four are the top choices for production and consumption in the United States. New wine enthusiasts should start by acquainting themselves with these four grapes.


Chardonnay is by far the most used grape in the United States and, most likely, in the world. More Chardonnay wine is consumed in the United States than any other type. That is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that there are some outstanding Chardonnays on the market. The curse is that many techniques have been used to produce Chardonnays for the inexpensive and cheap mass markets. That yields some barely palatable wines.

Chardonnay grapes originated in the Burgundy region of France. Today, good grapes are grown in countries like Argentina, Australia, South Africa and Chile. In the United States, they are grown in California, New York, Virginia, Oregon, Texas and other states. The grapes produce different results depending on the specific climate and soil conditions they are grown in. French grapes are used to produce what are referred to as White Burgundies, and wine critics generally regard these wines as the best produced from the Chardonnay grape. In fact, they are often called the original Chardonnays. In addition, there are outstanding Chardonnay wines produced in California, Oregon, Australia, Chile and Argentina.

The grape itself produces wines with fruity aromas and flavors. There are tastes of apples, tropical fruits, mushrooms and minerals in different Chardonnays. The wines tend to be medium to high in acidity which contributes to a crisp, tart taste. Some Chardonnay, particularly inexpensive ones, can be on the sweet side.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc grapes produce wines that are high in acidity with very noticeable flavors of hay, grass and herbs. There are often hints of fruit and melons. The grapes are traditionally associated with France, but today New Zealand and Australia also have excellent vineyards. Generally, Sauvignon Blanc is not oak aged.


Riesling grapes are most closely associated with Germany, but they are also grown in the Alsace region of France, Austria and Australia. They are not widely grown in the United States, and Riesling wine is far less popular in the United States than Chardonnay. Even so, many wine authorities regard it as the best of the white wine grapes because it produces wines with delicate fruity flavors and lightness.

Many people think of Riesling as a very sweet wine, but, in fact, Riesling can take varying levels of sweetness from dry to very sweet. It is not aged in oak and is typically low in alcohol content and high in acidity. It is very fruity and flowery and is light and refreshing. Start discovering Riesling with Mosel or Rhein Kabinetts from Germany.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is also called Pinot Grigio. Unlike the other grapes, this one is actually purplish in color. Even so, they produce one of the best white wines. The grapes are associated with France, but are grown in Argentia, Chile and Oregon. Each area produces a distinct grape. An underlying honey taste is common to all. Then, depending on the growing region, pear, floral, peach, spicy and even orange flavors stand out.

How To Get Started

Local wine shops, not a grocery store, are a great resource for discovering white wines. Start with Chardonnay. Select two wines made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, not blends. One should be aged in oak barrels and one in stainless steel. Many people confuse oak tastes with the characteristic Chardonnay taste. It isn’t. Sample both types of aging to discover the difference. Start with French or California Chardonnays in the mid price range ($15-$25 per bottle). Next, move to Riesling. Start with a wine from Germany and Alsace. Wine shop merchants can assist in finding wines with the right sweetness. Try both a sweet and dry Riesling. Next, discover Sauvignon Blanc. Try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc first. Finally, explore Pinot Gris.

This approach makes it easy to discover personal tastes in white wines. Explore the four most popular grapes first, then discover the other 8 popular types of grapes and the blends. Discover how oak barrel aging adds its own characteristic tastes to white wine. Experiment with the differences in sweetness and in acidity. All the while, use wine tasting sheets to record impressions of each wine.

Wine Storage Factors

It’s sad to see how many websites perpetuate myths about wine storage just to convince consumers that only the most expensive wine coolers/cellars/fridges can prevent fine wines from turning to vinegar overnight. Unfortunately, the truth is far less motivating. Below we discuss the basics of typical wine storage – i.e., wine held for personal consumption rather than speculation – and to help clear up some of the rampant confusion so new enthusiasts can make sensible, cost-effective buying decisions.

Terminology – Wine Coolers, Fridges, Cellars, Etc.

Wine Cooler vs. Wine Cellar – What’s the Difference? We see lots of blogs and other websites that attempt to define and separately categorize wine coolers, wine cellars, and wine refrigerators – as if they can be systematically differentiated. In most cases, however, you will notice that despite saying and assuming that they are distinct, the author can’t actually articulate any meaningful way to distinguish them. And when the do, most websites attempt to categorize wine “cellars” based on vague notions of price class, by calling them “high-end” wine coolers. That defines nothing, since prices vary along a continuum.

In other cases, the attempted distinction is more concrete but just as arbitrary – e.g., some say wine cellars must have humidity control. But this is also not helpful, since even the most basic wine fridges can come with, or be fitted with, some form of humidity control system, such as a simple tray of water. Finally, a third so-called definition that we typically see is that wine cellars are supposedly designed for more “long term” storage. But this too is impossibly vague and unhelpful, since most wine coolers/fridges are designed to maintain proper long term storage temperatures. So as long as the fridge or cooler holds up over the long term, then it can function for long term storage. There’s no fundamental difference as to how they go about maintaining temperatures, since cheaper wine fridges and expensive “cellars” alike all use the same types of cooling machinery (compressors or thermoelectric systems).

Simply put, wine coolers, wine fridges, wine cellars or any other temperature-controlled boxes/cabinets are all designed to do the same thing: maintain wine at optimal storage temperatures, generally around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some can also chill whites to their proper service temperature (but that has nothing to do with storage). Of course, these units may vary greatly in their reliability and quality, but this generally has nothing to do with whether they are marketed as wine cellars versus wine coolers.

Please note that when we talk about long term storage, for most consumers, this normally means up to five years, typically much less. So if your fridge/cooler/cellar can function properly and reliably during this period, it can by this definition store wine “long term.” If you plan on storing wine longer than this, and your cooler/cellar has been running well so far, go for it. However, if you are storing fine wine as an investment, or are keeping ultra-expensive wine that you are passionate about, forget about storing your own wine altogether – put your best wine in a professional storage facility and only keep in your cooler the wine you intend to consume!

Maintain Proper Wine Storage Temperature

There is no question that temperature is the most crucial storage consideration of them all. But the decision as to which temperature is best couldn’t be simpler, and we are stunned by all of the misinformation that exists.

Store All of Your Wine at Around 55 Degrees Fahrenheit

The consensus among the most respected wine organizations is that the best storage temperature – for both red and white wines – is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s it! And no you don’t have to maintain this temperature exactly, a few degrees above or below this is fine. Don’t make the rookie mistake of confusing storage temperature with service temperature, which does differ between reds and whites.