Classic Red Wine Styles and Producers

Classic Red Wines

Classic Reds.

As introduced in our Classic White Wines article, the world of wine can be explored one grape at a time. By tasting great expressions from established regions and producers, a student of tasting can become acclimated to the diversity of styles that are available.

Included here are the classic red wine grapes, and the most important areas where they are grown. Producers have been included who exemplify their local approach with panache. A plethora of other excellent producers can be found in these same regions, many tipping the scales of price dramatically. Most of the below examples can be found in the $40-80 range, with Veneto, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhône selections likely higher. These prices add up quickly if incurred individually for weekly tastings, therefore a shared burden is encouraged.

Reds take on a different seriousness compared to whites. Regardless of epic white examples from the exalted reaches of Burgundy, Mosel and Alsace, reds remain the commanding force at the top of most wine lists. Perhaps this is due to an intensity of color and flavor imbued from colorful skins, reminiscent of our own lifeblood. Does vanilla-scented oak give the fine red a sturdy dwelling in which to grow up, as the timbers of our own homes do? Yet still is careful bottle-aging, a process that integrates the innate personality of a wine over years, just as we mature with time. Aristocratic white wines commonly endure these methods; even pedestrian reds with any brawn demand them.

On vintage choice, there are several appropriate options for the below styles. Fresh and lively reds made from thin-skinned berries like Gamay can be enjoyed in youth, especially with a light chill. Plump and juicy fruit cups from the New World, like Malbec, are nice with 3-5 years but don’t have the structure for the long-haul. Bordeaux, Barolo and Rioja begin to show their true selves starting ten years in, as tannins give way to bouquet. Favorable vineyard seasons can lend age-worthiness, so cross-reference a few sources to bone up on vintages. To summarize, think of red wines like neighborhood birds: bright and lively sparrows come out early, dark and brooding owls wait ’till later.

Multi-Region Classics (established international expressions)

Pinot Noir

  • France, Côte de Nuits, AOC or 1e Cru
    • Domaine Louis Jadot, Gevrey-Chambertin
    • Domaine Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny
    • Domaine Dujac, Morey-Saint-Denis
  • France, Côte de Beaune, AOC or 1e Cru
    • Domaine Michel Gaunoux, Pommard
    • Domaine de Montille, Volnay
    • Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Volnay
  • United States, Sonoma Coast AVA
    • Failla
    • Kosta Browne
    • Lioco
  • United States, Willamette Valley AVA
    • Ken Wright, Yamhill-Carlton
    • Evening Land, Dundee Hills
    • Domaine Serene, Dundee Hills
  • New Zealand, Central Otago
    • Rippon, Lake Wanaka
    • Carrick, Bannockburn
    • Felton Road, Bannockburn

Cabernet Sauvignon (* blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and others)

  • France, Médoc *
    • Château Haut-Bages Libéral, Pauillac AOC, 5e Cru
    • Château Lagrange, St. Julien AOC, 3e Cru
    • Château Marquis de Terme, Margaux AOC, 4e Cru
  • United States, Napa Valley AVA
    • Quintessa, Rutherford
    • Mayacamas Vineyards, Mt.Veeder
    • Spottswoode, St. Helena
  • Australia, Coonawara GI
    • Wynns Coonawarra Estate
    • Penley Estate
    • Balnaves of Coonawarra
  • Chile, Valle Central
    • Concha y Toro, Valle del Maipo DO
    • Haras de Pirque, Valle del Maipo DO
    • Casa Lapostolle, Valle de Colchagua DO

Merlot (* blended with Cabernet Franc and others)

  • France, St. Emilion AOC and Pomerol AOC *
    • Arômes de Pavie (St. Émilion AOC, Grand Cru Classé A, 2nd label)
    • Château Monbousquet (St. Émilion AOC, Grand Cru Classé)
    • Château Bel-Air, (Pomerol)
  • United States, Napa Valley AVA
    • Freemark Abbey
    • Shafer
    • Twomey

Syrah (* and Shiraz)

  • France, Côte Rotie AOC
    • Domaine Bernard Levet
    • Domaine René Rostaing
    • Maison Nicolas Perrin
  • France, Hermitage AOC and Cornas AOC
    • Theirry Allemand (Cornas)
    • E. Guigal (Hermitage)
    • Domaine du Colombier (Hermitage)
  • Australia, Barossa Valley GI *
    • Torbreck
    • Penfolds
    • Two Hands
  • United States, Walla Walla AVA
    • Gramercy Cellars
    • W.T. Vintners
    • B. Leighton

Grenache (* blends with Mourvèdre, Syrah and others)

  • France, Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC *
    • Clos des Brusquières
    • Domaine de la Charbonnière
    • Bosquet des Papes
  • Australia, McLaren Vale GI
    • Yangarra
    • Imprimata
    • d’Arenberg

Single-Region Classics (not yet produced internationally in consistent, high-quality expressions)

Cabernet Franc

  • France, Chinon AOC
    • Charles Jouguet
    • Catherine et Pierre Breton
    • Domaine de Pallus

Carménère

  • Chile, Valle Central
    • Viña Santa Rita, Valle del Maipo DO
    • Montes, Valle del Rapel DO
    • Valdivieso, Valle de Curicó DO

Corvina (blended with Rondinella and others)

  • Italy, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
    • Allegrini
    • Masi
    • Zenato

Gamay Noir

  • France, Beaujolais “Cru”
    • Jean-Paul Thévenet, Morgon AOC
    • Guy Breton, Régnié AOC
    • Jean Foillard, Fleurie AOC

Malbec

  • Argentina, Mendoza IG
    • Archával-Ferrer
    • Bodega Catena Zapata
    • Terrazas de los Andes

Nebbiolo

  • Italy, Piemonte
    • G.D. Vajra, Barolo DOCG
    • DosioVigneti, Barolo DOCG
    • Sottimano, Barbaresco DOCG

Sangiovese

  • Italy, Toscana, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
    • Castello Banfi
    • Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona
    • Mastrojanni
  • Italy, Toscana, Chianti Zone (often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and others)
    • Marchesi Mazzei, Chianti Classico DOCG
    • Fontodi, Chianti Classico DOCG
    • Fattoria Selvapiana, Chianti DOCG, Rùfina subzone

Tempranillo (blended with Mazuelo, Graciano and others)

  • Spain, Rioja DOCa
    • R. López de Heredia
    • Ontañón
    • Bodegas Faustino

Zinfandel

  • United States, Dry Creek Valley AVA
    • Dashe Cellars
    • Joseph Jewell
    • Renwood Winery

This list has been curated with care, but is not meant to be and end-all taxonomy. Please comment below with any suggestions or corrections. Happy tasting!

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