If you have ever visited the adult-beverage section at a grocery store, you may have become overwhelmed by the wide selection of red wines. How do people narrow down the seemingly endless choices to find something that pairs well with dinner? To enjoy wine, it’s important to have a foundational knowledge base that you can build on by trying different red wine types. Here is a brief guide on red wine to get you started:

Cabernet Sauvignon

A classic glass of cabernet sauvignon has flavor notes of green olives, bell peppers, black cherries, cassis and other herbs. This wine has lots of complexity and is great for people seeking to expand their wine-tasting experience. These grapes are grown in many different regions, including Napa Valley.

Best paired with: Red meats, hearty red pastas and dark chocolate.


Merlot has flavors of cherries, plums, strawberries and watermelons. Some experts call this wine “the chardonnay of reds” because it is simple to pronounce and it doesn’t take a refined palate to appreciate this wine. The less expensive bottles have a subtler taste, while the pricier options are comparable to cabernet sauvignons.

Best paired with: Poultry, pork and salads.

Pinot Noir

Pinot noir has tastes of beetroot, black cherry, cola and plum. It is a medium-bodied wine with a smooth and silky texture. This grape can be unpredictable, making it a hard wine to produce. Additionally, these grapes are often used to produce sparkling wines, including Champagne.

Best paired with: Just about anything. Pinot noir is thought of as being one of the most food-friendly types because of its acidity.


This wine is lesser known, yet is popular among those who are exploring different varieties. It has flavor notes of peppers, boysenberries and cloves. Syrah can be made into medium- to full-bodied wine. The Australian varieties are called shiraz and are made into numerous types, from light and fruity to dense and tarry versions.

Best paired with: Wild game, grilled vegetables, richly-flavored red meats.


Zinfandel has distinct flavors of prunes, raisins, black cherries and raspberries. It was made primarily in California for decades, but now it can be found all over the world, including Australia and Italy.

Best paired with: Barbeque, spicy foods and roasted red meats.

Missed our 101 guide to white wines? Check it out!