Dry red wines are a sophisticated bunch. Their complexity evokes a whole range of flavors that picking the right one to pair with specific food can be a complicated decision.

To help you, we have listed six of our favorite types of dry red wine, along with recommended bottles for you to try. Enjoy!

Cabernet Sauvignon

​Cabernet sauvignon is grown in a wide range of climates all over the world, and so can have a variety of different flavors. However, the best cabs are very hearty and boast warm, oaky, spicy flavors.

​They’re beautifully full-bodied, and can have savory tastes like bell and black pepper, while also being sharp and sometimes a little bitter.

Major Regions
France, Chile, United States, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Argentina

Cabernet Sauvignon Taste Profile
Fruit: black cherry, black currant and blackberry
Other: black pepper, tobacco, licorice, vanilla and violet
Alcohol Content: 13.5-15.5%​

Best Paired With
Red meats, bitter greens, brie, cheddar

Why not try: Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (View on Amazon)

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir grapes date back to the Roman era, and has remained popular for good reason: Its light-to-medium nature matches a wide spectrum of foods, which makes pairing it with meals simple. If you're out with friends and everyone orders different entrees, your best bet to make everyone happy is to order Pinot Noir for the table.

It's light enough to match creamy and salmon dishes, but also complex enough to complement dark meats. The perfect failsafe option.

Major Regions
Argentina, California, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Oregon

Pinot Noir Taste Profile
Fruit: cranberry, cherry, raspberry
Other: licorice, cola, mushroom, vanilla, clove, wet leaves, tobacco, caramel
Alcohol Content: 11-14%​

Best Paired With
grilled salmon, chicken, lamb, sushi, creamy sauces, spicy food, salmon, tomatoes

Why not try: Meiomi Pinot Noir (View on Amazon)


Red fruits, easy tannins and a soft finish are the characteristics of this popular wine. Merlot has smooth flavor and hints of plums, currants and other berries, and its low acid content makes it ideal for people who don't like strong red wines. The varietal pairs well with an eclectic mix of foods including steak, lamb, tuna steak and cheese.

In short, it goes with almost anything.

Major Regions
France, Italy, California, Washington, Australia, Chile

Merlot Taste Profile
Fruit: black cherry, raspberry, plum
Other: graphite, cedar, tobacco, vanilla, clove, mocha
Alcohol Content: 12-15%​

Best Paired With

Why not try: Black Box Merlot (View on Amazon)


Sangiovese is a savory-tasting wine, boasting a wide range of tastes, from fruity to earthy. However, regardless of where it’s grown, it always exhibits cherry flavors with more subtle notes of tomato.

The most popular Sangioveses always manage to strike a balance between their fruit and earth components. If you do manage to get something in between the two, then you'll find that it goes superbly with most Mediterranean or Italian dishes.

Major Regions
Italy, Corsica, Argentina, California, Washington, Romania, Australia, Chile

Sangiovese Taste Profile
Fruit: tart cherry, red plum, strawberry, fig
Other: tomato, leather, roasted pepper, smoke, oregano, thyme, clay, brick, tobacco, dried roses, potpourri
Alcohol Content: 12%

Best Paired With
Italian and other Mediterranean-style cuisines

Why not try: 2013 Maryhill Winery Sangiovese


Tempranillo is a medium-to-full-bodied wine not too dissimilar to Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon. It comes with a fairly broad range of flavors, depending on whether its an Old World or New World vintage. Regardless of which one you go for, it pairs brilliantly with a lot of different food types.

Spanish vintages sometimes have a mild and smooth taste of leather mixed with cherries, while American and Argentinian Tempranillos tend to deliver beautifully crafted cherry and tomato flavors.

A good Tempranillo will taste full-bodied and with a hint of new oak aging, although it does appear a little lighter in color when compared to other full-bodied wines, like Shiraz. It manages to maintain a big flavor without ever feeling too heavy.

Major Regions
Spain, Portugal, USA, Australia

Tempranillo Taste Profile
Fruit: cherry, plum and tomato
Other: leather, tobacco, vanilla, clove
Alcohol Content: 13-14.5%

Best Paired With
Lasagna, pizza, grits, polenta, tacos, nachos

Why not try: 2012 Wise Villa Winery Sierra Foothills Tempranillo


Syrah and Shiraz are some of the darkest full-bodied red wines in the world. They have dark fruit flavors, ranging from blueberry to black olive, and pair well with barbecue, Mexican dishes, and beef.

Its taste starts with something punchy before tailing off to a spicy and peppery note that lingers a little after. Because of this front-loaded style, Syrah is often blended with other grapes that help offer a little more mid-palate and overall make the wine taste a little more complete and well-rounded. 

Major Regions
France, Australia, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, USA, Italy, Chile

Syrah Taste Profile
Fruit: blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry
Other: olive, pepper, clove, vanilla, mint, licorice, chocolate
Alcohol Content: 14-20%

Best Paired With
Steak, beef, wild game, stews

Why not try: 2012 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah

All color graphics courtesy of Wine Folly

After something a bit different? Be sure to check out our guide to Australian white wines.

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