I have recently become infatuated with red wine, which is not uncommon as you get older. But as you start dipping your toe into the world of red wine, you realize there are more differences in wines beyond the colors red and white.  

We're all aware that red wine has health benefits, and there are some cool hacks that you can use with leftover wine (if that's ever an issue). But what are the differences between them? How do you know which one to choose? What do you pair it with? Choosing red wine can be a daunting task if you're not well versed in the countless types, but I am here to help with the basics. 

Pinot Noir


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Pinot Noir is one of those wines that is usually a crowd pleaser. Though there is a wide range of tasting Pinots, they tend to not be too dry which makes it great try for novices. But beware that the older the Pinot, the more dry it tends to be.

Pinot Noirs usually have a berry or black cherry taste and are on the lighter side of reds. It's a wine that can been had alone, or with pretty much anything, which makes it great for sharing at meals. It pairs especially well with pasta dishes and game birds like chicken or duck. 

Cabernet Sauvignon

(ka-behr-NAY soh-vee-NYAWN)

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The Cabernet Sauvignon, more commonly referred to as Cabernet or just Cab, is the definition of fine wine. This is the wine that you want your parents to buy you as price tends to correlate with taste. This is not saying that you can't get a good bottle for a decent price, it's just if you have the chance to get an expensive bottle, get a Cabernet.

It's definitely more on the dry side, but fruity in taste. Since it's a heavier wine, I highly recommend eating with this wine. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with other heavy things such as beef or pasta dishes, especially with creamy sauces. For wine and cheese night, choose aromatic cheeses like blue or camembert.    



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Merlot is one of the more popular types of red wines in America. It's not too sweet but not too dry either, which makes it a perfect introductory red wine. It has a fruity taste which goes down smoothly, and can be good at all price ranges. 

It's approachable for newbies and a cheaper option for those who like the taste of Cabernet but trying to save some money. Because Merlot isn't too dry, nor too sweet, it pairs well with just about anything. Another great bottle to split at dinner if everyone is getting something different. 



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The Malbec is similar to Merlot but a little more rough around the edges. It has that same fruit-driven character but with a little spicy kick at the end. Though originally created in France, Argentina has become the leader in creating a perfect Malbec and is really good at it.

As many know, Argentinians love their meat, so they made the wine perfect for that, pairing well with lean cuts of meat such as sirloin or lamb. If you're more in the mood for a wine and cheese night, aim for aged cheeses such as manchego or gouda. 

Syrah (or Shiraz)

(see-RAH or shee-razz)

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Just to clear the air: Syrah and Shiraz are the same wine. Syrah is originally a French grape, but after it arrived in Australia, the Australians started calling it Shiraz. Why? Who knows? Australians like to make up new words to confuse foreigners, it's just their thing.

Syrah is one of the darkest and driest red wines out there. I do not recommend buying this one until you know you like red wine. It has a dark fruit taste with a spicy, peppery finish. The French bottles tend to be a little better but also more pricy, whereas the Australian bottles can still be good and affordable. They say if you like Syrah you can pair it with anything, but I recommend something to balance out the taste like creamy cheeses or any grilled meats.  



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If none of these reds have fancied your taste buds, the Zinfandel is probably for you. It is the sweetest of all red wines, and can still be good when you buy it super cheap. It has a fruity taste and relatively high alcohol content. Zinfandel is perfect to pair with pizza, any food with extra spice (i.e. BBQ, spicy curry), or chugging before the Uber arrives.