Dry Red Wine Types 101: A Complete Guide

Wines come in a variety of colors and forms. They differ by taste, experience, and of course, price tag. In the red wine variety alone, there are different types of red wines available. The most common varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir for those familiar with red wine.

If you’re primarily concerned about “dry red wine types,” then here are our top suggestions. Finding the perfect wine pairing for your food will literally transform your dinner experience. This guide will help you decide which dry red wine to buy for yourself when you visit your nearby grocery store.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Considered the king of red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon is almost synonymous with red wines in the United States. The red wine comes from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which are cultivated all around the world in a diverse spectrum of climates. In the US, it is the gem of the Napa Valley wine region, California.

The grapes are filled with tannins, the natural compounds found in wine that supply the bitter, astringent taste. Most winemakers age these grapes in French oak to produce the dark fruity flavor Cabernet Sauvignon red wine is known for. The perfect pairing for this dry red wine type is juicy steak or any roasted/grilled red meat.


Till the 1990s, Cabernet Sauvignon was the most widely cultivated grape for the production of premium red wines. But post-1990s, that title went to Merlot. The dry red wines produced from Merlot are often labeled as “Bordeaux-style red blend,” which is actually informal.

It means that the wine is produced from a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and sometimes Petit Verdor and Carmenère (the next dry red wine types on the list).

Merlot grapes are rounder and softer than other varieties mentioned herein. The grapes are seldom used as standalone for winemaking. They are rather used to counterbalance the astringency found in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, thus offering a smoother taste.

If you have hamburger or lamb/duck roast for dinner, Merlot brands will pair well.

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Sauvignon is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc. Therefore, Cabernet Franc is the parent breed of the most widely used grape for dry red winemaking.

The black grapes are varietals, and their production is primarily for the purpose of blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Its special fragrance is of particular interest to the winemakers when blending with other varieties. In its purest form, Franc is a bright pale red wine that is also lighter in taste compared to Sauvignon.

This red wine variety goes well with kinds of seafood, scallops, and shellfishes.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a member of the Pinot family that includes Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, among others. The French Burgundy wine region will certainly strike the mind of those who are familiar with the wine.

Pinot Noir wine is classified as light and medium-bodied. In terms of taste, expect a fruit-forward and cherry-like feeling. But older grapes tend to have an earthy taste. Therefore, producers ferment Pinot Noir grapes when they’re young.

Because of the high content of resveratrol, wines made from Pinot Noir are considered the healthiest. Resveratrol is an antioxidant that’s effective against heart diseases and high cholesterol.

Pairing is best with barbecued seafood. The Omega-3 fats and Tannis create a metallic flavor.


Syrah grapes are cultivated throughout the world, and hence the Syrah dry red wine types are particularly common. The wines are high in Tannins, they’re used mainly for dry red winemaking purposes.

The best Syrah grapes are found in the Rhone Valley, France. The Australian variants are called Shiraz, which is a tad stronger. But because of the globalized nature of it, you’re unlikely to find a difference unless you have really active buds.

Thai, Indian, and Mediterranean foods pair well with Syrah dry red wine variants.


Zinfandel is truly American because the grape is grown mainly in the US. The taste is very much like that of blackberry and raspberry, and the company producing it may add spiciness to it. The style is classified as intense and used for full-bodied winemaking.

The Zinfandel dry red wines pair well with veal and red meat. But pizzas and lasagnas also go well with this wine variant.


Many wine enthusiasts would argue that Malbec should have been ranked higher. And it’s justified to some degree. Malbec bridges the gap between the richness of Cabernet Sauvignon and the fruity flavor of Merlot. Therefore, people who are easily annoyed with the overly-soft flavor of Merlot gravitate to Malbec in search of a richer flavor.

Malbec grapes are processed in oak barrels. This imparts a smokey, toasty flavor to the wine. The best pairing for Malbec dry red wine is any BBQ-ed food, pulled pork, or anything that’s sweet and spicy.

Petit Verdot

This is primarily a blending grape for Bordeaux winemaking. The spicy flavor, along with the violet aroma, complements the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. This dry red wine type is also very much popular in the New World.

The grapes are thick-skinned that are also high in Tannins. What consumers mostly look for in Petit Verdot is the spiciness that lingers in the mouth for a longer period of time. Consider it as a dash of pepper in the meat.

Pairing is ideal with bland dishes like mildly-grilled meat or even steamed.


You’re unlikely to find Carménère in the Bordeaux family because of it.  Carménère is a deep-colored grape that can produce full-bodied wines. But because of its low-yielding nature, cultivators don’t exactly prefer it.

The wines produced from Carménère were once cherished for their red-and-black berry flavors that are very much similar to Merlot. The taste was granite-like and sour cherry. While not cultivated in the US anymore, you’re only going to find this dry red wine type only in selected outlets, if at all.

It is more significant in Chile, though. So if you visit South America sometime, do look around for  Carménère brand red wines.

Scroll to Top