15 Most Popular Dry Red Wine Varietals

best dry red wine

Table of Contents

What are Dry Red Wines?

dry red wine no residual sugar residual sugar

Basically dry red wine is NOT a sweet wine. 

When it comes to red wine, the term “DRY” isn’t the opposite of wet. Instead, it refers to the makeup of a bottle of wine or its lack of residual sugar. So, generally, dry red wines lack sweetness, not because they don’t contain sugar, but they have no leftover sugar (residual sugar) – there’s a difference.

It all comes down to the wine’s fermentation process: the yeast consumes the grape’s sugar content, converting it into alcohol.

When the fermentation process is unfinished, there is still residual sugar from the grape juice left, thus making sweet wine or dessert wine. But when the fermentation is completed, and all sugar converts into alcohol content during fermentation, the wines are considered dry. Thus there is little to no residual sugar. 

Dry red wines are ideal for food pairing and cooking wine. And the ones with high tannin concentration – most of them taste much better after aging/decanting!

Red Wine Sweetness Chart

Bone Dry to Sweet Red Wine Chart

red wine sweetness chart

What are the Top 15 Most Popular Dry Red Wines?

It’s a Bordeaux-style dry red wine often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes. If you like red ones, it’s most likely that you’ve tried a Cab before. It’s easily one of the most well-known dry red wine varietals out there – every major wine-producing region or country grows this grape variety. It also has some of the highest tannins of any red wine, bold and perfect to pair with red meats and hearty dishes.

What are the Best Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Regions?

While you can find Cabernet Sauvignon wines from all over the world, some of the best regions for this varietal include:

  • Bordeaux, France (Left Bank)
  • Napa Valley, California
  • Tuscany, Italy
  • Rioja, Spain
  • Coonawarra, Australia
  • Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Central Valley, Chile

Why is Cabernet Sauvignon so Popular?

Cabernet Sauvignon grape is the most popular red wine grape and loved by many that drink dry red wine. 

Its fame has spread across the world, and it is highly regarded for its high yields, as well as the ease with which it may be cultivated in a wide range of soils and climates.

  1. It has a very recognizable taste for the most discerning red wine enthusiast to enjoy. Full-bodied, dark fruit notes, complex flavors, silky to heavy tannins, well-balanced, dry red wine. 
  2. It’s also a dry red wine that pairs well with most of the best red meat dishes.
  3. Additionally, Cabernet Sauvignon wines tend to be very affordable, or very high-end wines.

What are the Best Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings?

Some of our favorite food pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon include:

  • Steak or roast beef
  • Pork chops
  • Lamb shank or chops
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Dark chocolate cake

If you love Cabernet Sauvignon, check out our Top 19 Best CA Cabernets Under $25!

cabernet sauvignon vs merlot comparison
Merlot vs Pinot Noir Comparison

It may be the most underrated red wine with a fruit forward flavor and a lot fewer tannins than the cab – no intense flavor. If you’re trying red wine for the first time, Merlot is easily one of the friendliest red wines.

What are the Best Merlot Wine Regions?

Merlot grapes are grown all over the world, but some of the best regions for this varietal include:

  • Bordeaux, France (Right Bank)
  • California (Paso Robles, Napa)
  • Washington State, United States
  • Barossa Valley, Australia
  • Friuli, Italy
  • Uco Valley, Argentina

Why is Merlot so Popular?

Merlot is a very popular red wine for a few reasons.

  1. First, it’s easy to drink and has ripe fruit aromas and flavors that most people enjoy.
  2. It’s also one of the more affordable red wines on the market.
  3. Additionally, Merlot pairs well with many different types of food, making it versatile for any occasion. Also a good cooking wine.

What are the Best Merlot Food Pairings?

  • Beef stew or Beef Bourguignon
  • Roast duck/turkey
  • Hamburgers
  • Pork Roasts
  • Chicken

Want to learn more about Merlot and check out our Top 17 Merlots Under $30!

Dubbed as the fickle grape – the 5th most planted grape all over the world. Pinots from Burgundy are probably the best red wines in the world, but you can also find exceptional New World Pinot Noirs around California and Oregon vineyards. 

This dry red wine varietal has excellent savory depth, and it’s light to medium bodied. If you want a good red wine for a salmon or any poultry dish, you’ll surely enjoy this one.

What are the Best Pinot Noir Wine Regions?

While Pinot Noir wines are grown all over the world, some of the best regions for this varietal include:

  • Burgundy, France
  • Sonoma County, California
  • Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Central Otago, New Zealand

Why is Pinot Noir so Popular?

Sideways Effect

“SIDEWAYS” the movie. 

Pinot Noir’s popularity is likely due to its light-bodied, easy-to-drink nature. It also has a range of flavors that make it interesting to drink and pairs well with most food types.

Additionally, Pinot Noir is often seen as a “quality” wine due to the Burgundy region being known for producing some of the best wines in the world. And its many fine wine collectors favorite wine region.

What are the Best Pinot Noir Food Pairings?

Some of our favorite food pairings for Pinot Noir include:

  • Salmon or other fish dishes
  • Poultry dishes
  • Pressed Duck
  • Mushroom-based dishes
  • Grilled vegetables

Check out list for Best Pinot Noir Under $30!

Synonymous with Argentina, although this grape varietal originally came from France. This red wine variety features a dark red color and high tannin concentration. 

If you’re a meat lover, you’re going to enjoy a glass or a bottle of Malbec, although it also pairs well with pasta and cheeses.

What are the Best Malbec Wine Regions?

While Malbec wine is produced in a number of countries, some of the best regions for this varietal include:

  • Mendoza, Argentina
  • Cahors, France
  • Salta, Argentina
  • Luján de Cuyo, Argentina
  • Uco Valley, Argentina

Why is Malbec so Popular?

  1. Firstly, it has a very unique medium-bodied, fruit-forward and earthy flavor that many red wine drinkers enjoy. It’s an easy-drinking red wine with rich, dark fruit flavors and smooth vanilla, dark chocolate finish.
  2. Secondly, single-varietal Malbecs are delicious but don’t overlook a Malbec blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon. In Red Bordeaux Blends, Malbec is used as a mixing grape.
  3. Finally, Malbec wines are typically affordable and can be found at most wine stores.
French Malbec taste Flavors

What are the Best Malbec Food Pairings?

Some of our favorite food pairings for Malbec include:

  • Pizza
  • Pasta with red sauce
  • Grilled meats
  • BBQ
  • Smoked dishes
  • Chimichurri sauce

Learn more about Malbec and check out our Best Malbec under $30!

best zinfandel drink red wine

Not the white Zinfandel that you may think of. This one has peppery and spicy notes with red fruit flavors. It’s originally from Croatia but is not very popular around California, especially for those looking for light-bodied and easy-to-drink red wines.

What are the Best Zinfandel Wine Regions?

  • Paso Robles, California
  • Napa Valley, California
  • Puglia, Italy (aka Primitivo)
  • North Coast, California
  • Lodi, California

Why is Zinfandel so Popular?

Zinfandel is known as a robust, fruity red wine with rich jammy fruit and smoky, spice undertones. They are also some of the most food-friendly wines out there.

What are the Best Zinfandel Food Pairings?

  • Meaty Pepperoni Pizza
  • Barbecue ribs
  • Beef brisket
  • Turkey
  • Meaty pasta sauces

Learn more about Zinfandel and check out our 11 Best Zinfandels!

Italy Map Super Tuscans

Most planted Italian grape, commonly found in the Chianti region. Although you can drink it on its own, the best way to enjoy Sangiovese wine is to pair it with your favorite savory dish. This red wine typically boasts impressive tartness with plum and cherry aromas that are inviting even on the first whiff.

What are the Best Sangiovese Wine Regions?

  • Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
  • Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
  • Umbria, Italy
  • Napa Valley, California
  • Romagna, Italy

Why is Sangiovese so Popular?

Sangiovese is one of the most popular dry red wine grape varieties in the world for a few reasons. The medium to high tannins and high acidity in Sangiovese, as well as its slight oak aromas, blend nicely with the rich cherry and tomato flavorAs a result, it makes this dry wine the ideal match for Italian tomato-based meals. 

And although most people know Sangiovese grapes produce Chianti wine (the most popular Italian red wine), they are also used to make Brunello (one of the best wines in the world). Furthermore they are sometimes used as a blending grape in Super Tuscans!

What are the Best Sangiovese Food Pairings?

Learn more about Italian Red Wines. Check out our favorites!

syrah vs shiraz grape

Called Shiraz in Australia – a versatile red wine variety that’s known for its light and fruity flavors or dense spiciness, depending on where the grapes are from. And Shiraz wine is typically dark, flavor-packed, and filled with antioxidants.

In France, Syrah is blended with Grenache to make up the popular red wine blend, Côtes du Rhône. A full-bodied wine that is often described as a rich, bold, and often meaty red wine.

What are the Best Syrah Wine Regions?

  • Rhône Valley, France
  • Barossa Valley, Australia
  • Paso Robles, California
  • Napa Valley, California

Why is Syrah so Popular?

Syrah is popular for a few reasons. It has an intense flavor that appeals to many, it’s versatile and can be made into different styles of red wine, and it pairs well with a variety of food types. And its Australia’s most planted red wine grape.  

What are the Best Syrah Food Pairings?

  • Asian spiced pork
  • Peppery BBQ
  • Indian spiced dishes
  • Lamb
  • Sausages

8) Garnacha - Grenache

Grenache Fun Facts full bodied red wine

Called Grenache in France, although it’s also very famous in Spain and Australia. If you love the flavors of cherry with hints of baking spice, you’re going to enjoy this red wine. It’s the Pinot Noir of the South – one of the most unfairly overlooked red wines.

What are the Best Garnacha Wine Regions?

  • Rhône Valley, France
  • Languedoc-Roussillon, France
  • Priorat, Spain
  • Rioja, Spain
  • Aragon, Spain
  • Barossa Valley, Australia

Why is Garnacha so Popular?

Garnacha is popular for a few reasons. It’s rich and flavorful red wines, making it easy to drink. Additionally, it has low to medium tannins so it doesn’t overwhelm your palate. Finally, it’s affordable, so you can enjoy these red wines without breaking the bank.

What are the Best Garnacha Food Pairings?

  • Beef, pork, chicken stews
  • Grilled lamb and gamey meats
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Slow-cooked pork
Spain Wine Regions Map Tempranillo grape regions

Tempranillo comes from the word “temprano,” Spanish for early since this grape variety ripens weeks earlier than other Spanish red grapes. 

Rioja region makes the best of this varietal, a black grape variety with deep flavors of dark fruits. You can enjoy this Spanish dry red wine on its own or with braised beef or roasted chicken.

What are the Best Tempranillo Wine Regions?

  • Rioja, Spain
  • Ribera del Duero, Spain

Why is Tempranillo so Popular?

Tempranillo wines are popular for its deep, dark fruit flavors and easy-drinking style. It’s not as heavy as Cabernet, but it has a lot of complexity. And of course, it’s also a quality dry wine to pair with Spanish food.

What are the Best Tempranillo Food Pairings?

  • Paella
  • Patatas bravas
  • Grilled meats like steak or seasoned chicken
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Manchego cheese and Jamón

10) Montepulciano - Italy's #2

2nd most planted grape in Italy, grown around Tuscan hilltops. Go for a wine tour around the east and central Italy for the best Montepulciano wines, particularly in the eastern Abruzzo, Molise, and Marche regions. It’s got the taste of a rustic wine, dramatically influenced by how the red wine is aged.

What are the Best Montepulciano Wine Regions?

  • Abruzzo, Italy
  • Molise, Italy
  • Marche, Italy
  • Lodi, California

Why is Montepulciano so Popular?

Montepulciano is a popular dry red wine for a few reasons. First, Montepulciano wines are relatively affordable that pairs well with pizzas (aka the Pizza Wine). Additionally, it pairs well with a variety of different meaty foods. Last but not least, it’s a medium-bodied, medium to high acidity red wine with rich tobacco-like flavors and high tannins.

What are the Best Montepulciano Food Pairings?

  • Pizza
  • Meaty pasta
  • Beef tacos
  • Herb crusted grilled meats
  • Baked macaroni and cheese
  • Roasted vegetables
Italian Red Wines

Learn more about Italian Red Wines. Check out our favorites!

Dry Red Wines Honorable Mentions:

11) Gamay - Beaujolais

Gamay is a dry red wine made from the Gamay Noir grape, which is a type of Pinot Noir. This varietal was once very popular and was used to produce some of the best wines in France. However, its popularity has since diminished.

But it is an amazingly food-friendly, an easy-drinking French red wine commonly found in the Beaujolais region of France – best to drink when young. It’s generally one of the lighter bodied fruity wines with floral and red fruit aromas, and sometimes earthy character.

This red wine varietal is popular in Argentina, Australia, California, and Chile, although it’s originally from France.

Petit Sirah is popular as a bold red wine with rich ripe black fruit tastes and robust tannins. Its most commonly found in California and, as the name suggests, it’s a smaller grape. Given the wines’ potent tannins, Petite Sirah is a full-bodied red wine that goes well with fatty, meaty foods, and hearty dishes.

13) Pinotage - South Africa

Signature South African varietal, a Cinsault and Pinot Noir hybrid almost exclusively grown in South Africa. 

The word “pinotage” is a combination of the words “pinot” (the French word for pine) and “Huguenot” (a reference to the French Protestant immigrants who brought vines to South Africa in the 1600s). 

Pinotage wines are typically fruit-forward and easy to drink. They can range in color from light pink to deep red, and are often described as having dark flavors of blackberry, cherry, licorice, tobacco, plums, and sweet baking spice.

Brunello vs Barolo

I had to mention this one since Barolos are some of the favorite fine wines, which are also popular for wine collectors and all sorts of red wine drinkers. And Nebbiolo grapes are used to make Barolo. 

Nebbiolo is a dry red wine varietal that is indigenous to the Piedmont region of Italy. Also it’s one of the oldest grape varietals in existence, and has been grown for over 600 years. 

Nebbiolo wines are characterized by their high acidity and tannin levels, as well as their aromas of roses, tar, and truffles. Due to their high tannin levels, Nebbiolo is typically a full-bodied wine that is best enjoyed with food.

15) Carmenere - Chile

Originally a Bordeaux varietal, but recently became very famous in Chile with green bell pepper aroma.

Carmenere is a dry red wine varietal that is native to the Bordeaux region of France. However, it is now largely grown in Chile. This varietal was once thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in Chile in the 1990s. Carmenere wines are typically medium-bodied, with soft tannins and medium acidity. They often have flavors of blackberry, plum, chocolate, and spice.

What are the Best Dry Red Wines for Cooking?

Some of the best red cooking wine:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir

These wines have bold flavors that can stand up to the strong flavors of many dishes. They also have medium to high acidity, which can help to balance out the richness of some dishes. When cooking with dry red wines, be sure to use a wine that you would also enjoy drinking. You don’t want to use a cheap wine that you wouldn’t want to drink, as it will likely not taste good in your dish either.

“Never over $20. And if you won’t drink it, don’t use it”

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