As a continuation to, White Grapes are as Different as Apples and Oranges, red grapes are very much the same. Sometimes it is hard to believe that one small piece of fruit can vary so much. Even though there are dozens upon dozens of varieties of red grape, the following is a short list of what I feel are the major red varieties.
Pinot Noir originates in Burgundy but can also call places such as Tasmania and New Zealand home and is often considered to be the lightest of all the red grape varieties. Flavours and aromas again can vary but usually are reminiscent of raspberry and strawberry while having spicy and earthy aromas. Because of the variety of flavours and aromas that can be produced from Pinot Noir, it is important to ask a retailer when first getting involved in this variety because as easy it is to have a stunning bottle it is just as easy to have a bottle that would give you nightmares. It is also important to keep in mind that although Pinot Noir is a low yielding variety it is not always necessary to spend a lot of money to get a nice bottle of wine you just need to know what to look for (which is where asking comes into play if you are unsure of a particular region or vineyard).
Just as Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are essentially the same, Shiraz and Syrah are essentially the same with the differences lying only in their styles and origins. Syrah has much more spice and be a leaner and elegant Old World style grape while its brother Shiraz is a fruitier and more oaky New World star. Syrah has characteristics that range from plum to redcurrants with a lot of spice while Shiraz is a rich and intense wine that will remind you of raspberry, cedar and earth. Both are quite intense in their own right and sometimes need an acquired taste for strong, powerful fruity and spicy wines to be fully appreciated.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a native to Franceís Bordeaux region and aside from being one of the best established in grape growing regions around the world, it is also considered by many (including myself) the ruler of red wines. This is also in part due to their thick skins and high acidity having created some of the best and oldest red wines around. Having an amazing universal appeal, Cabernet Sauvignon has a variety of flavours and aromas. These aromas can vary from leather and mint to fruity such as cherry and plum and contribute to the ìfull bodyî feeling that this wine is known for.
A well known wine, Merlot often runs neck in neck with that of Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is grown all over the world including countries such as Australia and America with itís origins in France. With flavours that can be on the fence between lightweight and medium bodied, Merlots flavours tend to be full of plum fruit flavours with little tannin. One of the more drinkable varieties, Merlot is a quick favourite with people who are just started to acquire a taste for red wine.
Perhaps not as big in many parts of the world it can definitely be said that Zinfandel (also known as Zin) has found itís calling in the United States where in the Napa Valley it has had huge success in creating some amazing wines. Zinfandels are known to create wines varying from light bodied to full on power houses to sweet dessert wines and ports. A fact that many people are starting to become aware of is that Zinfandel and Primitivo from Italy are not different varieties but in fact are twins.
While there are many more varieties of red grape that were not touched upon such as Tempranillo, Grenache and Pinot Meunier, the above list hopefully will shed some light on the many varieties of red grapes that are used to produce wine as even a basic knowledge of grapes will greatly enhance your ability to understand and appreciate a bottle of wine.