Education Wine

Red Grapes 101

We talked at length last month about how to find your go-to red wines. So now that you’ve decided on which red grape you love most, this month, we wanted to help you learn a bit more about your chosen grape and begin to appreciate its character. You could say your first grape meeting went so well, we’re on to the second date, if you will.

Before we get to it, here is a little info to know about those 7 red grapes you tasted. In the wine cannon, there are what are called “noble” grapes. Meaning, there are names for white and red grapes that are harvested internationally and everyone everywhere drinks these grapes a lot. So, you could say another way of saying “noble” is extremely popular.

Interestingly, over time, the number of noble grapes has grown from just three to, some argue, as many as nine. Since we want to be sure to continue on with the knowledge you picked up last month, we’ll only focus on the 7 red grapes we recommended last month and you’ve (hopefully) tried.

We’ll start with the lightest of the bunch and move on to the heaviest. So wine lovers, say “hello” to your new favorite friend. And tell us more about your favorite red wines in the comment section below!


Pinot Noir

As we learned, wines have a place they love to grow best. Pinot noir loves Burgundy, France. It just really sings with complexity there. It’s super aromatic, with light as summer flavors like ripe red berries and sweet black cherries. (Side note: When someone talks about a red wine from Burgundy, it’s always a Pinot Noir, because those are the only red grapes used in that part of the country. Yes, this is when wine starts getting a wee confusing!).

Pinots are also very happy growing in many other regions, but the next stop on your pinot noir journey should definitely be Willamette, Oregon. The region aims for a light and fragrant delicacy with a lot more earthiness than Burgundies. It’s a great compare and contrast.


If you’ve landed on merlot as your go-to grape, then you’ve found that in Bordeaux, France, this grape really shines. It loves the region’s cool, moist soil, where it is can best express its full potential: supple, round, soft, and elegant. And the taste: red fruits galore with a very Francais earthiness.

Napa Valley, California is your next stop for Merlot. Because of the warmer climate, the grape tastes more fruity from this part of the world, yet it retains its consisently round and smooth character. Give it a whirl and let us know which you like best!


With all that amazing balance between fruit and earth, with those underlying cherry and tomato flavors, there’s no doubt you’re a romantic if you love Sangiovese from Tuscany. This is a grape that loves some heat, which is why the warm Tuscan sun is its undisputed home base.

This grape doesn’t grow much outside of Italy well, so the next jump would be to go deeper into Tuscany and compare thre grape wines from famed Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano regions and really get granular.



Firstly, let me just say it is pronounced: temp-rah-nee-yo. There you are, de nada. Heavy on the cherry flavors with a leather and scorched earth thing going on, it’s hard not to love this big Spanish wine. It was born and cultivated in Rioja, so it really is indigenous to the region and loves that soil and environs.

The grape is pretty dominant all over Spain, but if tempranillo is your thang, next on your adventure is trying out a New World region like Argentina. Because of the climate this grape tends to taste more cherry and tomato-sauce-y. But that just might be what you’re looking for!

Cabernet Sauvignon

One of the most full-bodied wines around, this grape thrives in many places, but most especially in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. There aren’t too many 100%ers out there due to the blending, but when you get a strong on the Cab blend, you get a lot of hebral and floral and tobacco earthiness all submerged in cherries. It’s soooo good.

If you want to branch out and find a fruiter style of Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll love picking up a bottle from Napa Valley. They make shockingly great Cabs and give France a blue ribbon run for their Euros.



This is one big, bold, dark fruit flavor grape, with dare say, promiscuous blackberry tastes when you’re drinking it from Côtes du Rhône, France. Just off the charts with flavor and depth with hits of pepper and earthiness. This dark grape really packs a punch and really is suited to the fabled soils of Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.

Head across the globe to Australia for an entirely different take on this grape, called shiraz Down Under. It’s considerably more fruity and spicy, owing to the climate, and does especially well growing in the Barossa Valley. It’s equally lush and the Aussies do a lot of things right in general, but most especially when it comes to this grape.


If you found yourself longing for malbec grapes from Argentina, you definitely like your wine deep and plump. Malbec loves the hot, high-altitude from south of the equator, and it ends up tasting fruity with heavy blackberry, plum, and black cherry tastes. And maybe some leather, because, you know, it’s Argentina. It’s like Hemingway in a glass.

For another incarnation of malbec, head back to the mother of all wine, France. They did invent this grape, after all. In Cahors and Loire it works well with the land and environs to create a wine that is leathery, with black plum and a strong freshness.


  1. Useful post …. er … but maybe the Greeks and Romans “invented” the grape? Touring and tasting in France is still my favourite though …..


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