Found in most of the warmer climates in the wine-producing world, Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the most famous red grape of all.
The predominant flavours are blackcurrant (cassis), blackberries, mint and chocolate, depending on the level of acidity. When mature the wines can have a cedary smell. Often blended with Merlot - especially in Bordeaux and increasingly around the world - which softens the final wine.
Carménère is one of the most ancient varieties in Bordeaux, though plantings have not been maintained even in this region, let alone any other part of France. Carménère was imported to South America in the 1850s, along with other Bordeaux varieties, prior to the European outbreak of Phylloxera. The largest established vineyards of this variety are in Chile, although many of these were mis-identified as Merlot (the two vines share many similarities) for more than a century. It has remained bug free in Chile ever since, and has become its signature red grape. The name Carménère comes from the most intensely crimson (Carmon) hue of the wines made from the grape.
Widely planted across the Languedoc but at its best when restricted to small yields. Particularly good for rosé wines. Cinsault's wine usually has a fine red colour, is soft and rich, with a pleasant perfume.
In the Languedoc it gives suppleness and balance to Carignan and Grenache. It is a prime grape in many famous appellations, such as Fitou, Minervois, Corbières and St. Chinian. When it was exported to South Africa it was originally known as Hermitage (although French Hermitage has none in its blend) before reverting to the slightly different spelling, Cinsaut. There are also Cinsaut plantings in Australia, although it has yet to achieve popularity there.
Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais and is found almost exclusively in this appellation south of Burgundy. There are small amounts grown in the Loire Valley, but it has not been exported to the New World in any significant quantities. The grapes are lightly coloured, with thinnish skins and produce wines with a bright cherry red colour. Whilst most of Beaujolais is light, in some of the Crus it can make wines that develop almost Burgundian qualities with ageing. Photo GNU.
This light coloured grape is a quintessentially Mediterranean red variety.
As a result it often mingles the classic Mediterranean garrigue scents of thyme, fennel and rosemary with white pepper and its warming, raspberryish fruit flavours. It tends to be low in tannin and hence soft and supple and is often blended with Syrah (Shiraz), with both constituents complementing each other.
As Garnacha in Spain it is a minor constituent of Rioja, and is blended with Tempranillo in other Spanish wine regions, as well as being a single varietal.
Originally from Bordeaux, now virtually non-existent there, but is the major grape of Cahors, in S.W. France. Following its transportation to South America in the 19th century, Malbec is now the widest planted red grape in Argentina, and regarded as its signature red grape. Really excels in the high altitudes of Mendoza and San Rafael. The wines have luscious gamey concentration, are deep coloured, with rich, intensely fruity flavours, with underlying sweeter fruit elements of blackcurrants and mulberries. Also becoming popular in other New World countries, such as Australia.
One of the most sensuously fragrant red grapes in the world with a variety of scented aromas based on red berry characters closest to raspberry and strawberry, and often tinged with incense and spice.
Having light skins it produces a very light, cherry coloured wine. It can be a little minty and vegetal but when ripe usually tastes of raspberry as well as cherry and, when exotic, loganberry, mulberry and wild strawberry.
As it matures in bottle, it often develops silky textures and alluring overtones of truffles, game and leather.
Pinotage is almost exclusively South African, having been developed there in the 1925 as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, which was known at that time as Hermitage, hence Pinot-age. It is mostly harvested from bush vines, with many vineyards having vines over 25 years old. Pinotage has a good depth of flavour and is a unique individual fruity refreshing wine. It has good levels of alcohol giving depth, structure and keeping ability. The best examples of Pinotage wines are medium-bodied and subtly flavoured and better than most Cinsaut wines.
Sangiovese is the main grape used in the popular red wines of Tuscany, where it is the primary component of the wines of Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and many "Super Tuscans", and the solitary grape of Brunello di Montalcino. Outside of Tuscany, it is found throughout central Italy as well as Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Valpolicella and as far south as Campania and Sicily. Young Sangiovese has new fruity flavours of strawberry with a little spiciness and a touch of acidity, but it willingly takes on oaky, even tarry, flavours when aged in barrels. Sangiovese is becoming more and more popular as a red wine grape in Australia and California. Some wineries also use Sangiovese to make rosé wines.