What Is the Difference in Red Wines?

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There are subtle differences between red wines such as merlot and cabernet.
There are subtle differences between red wines such as merlot and cabernet. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A glass of wine is a great way to end the day, whether you’re at home cooking your own gourmet dinner or out with your spouse or friends. Most people know which type of wine they favor but know little more than that it’s red or white. The fact is that not all white or red wines are the same; there are several varieties each with its own flavor, consistency and taste. Red wines are dry and made from red or black grapes; taste depends on where each grape is grown and even on the weather. You might be familiar with a few of the common red wines sold in stores and served in restaurants and you might wonder what the difference is between each.

Zinfandel

Zinfandel grapes are grown primarily in California due to its need for warm, sunny weather and dry air. The flavor of a red zinfandel is between medium and full bodied and offers a slightly robust flavor along with low acidity and a higher alcohol content than other red wines. Zinfandel that is dark red is called Primitivo, which is not to be confused with white zinfandel.

Pinot Noir

The grape used to make pinot noir is one that is difficult to grow and is found primarily in France, Oregon and cool climate areas of California. The pinot noir is the lightest of the dark reds with heavy aromas and flavors and a medium body. This wine is light, flavorful and dry, but not as much as other reds.

Merlot

Merlot grapes grow almost anywhere and make a red wine with low acidity and soft flavors. Merlot often tastes faintly of blackberries, cherries and plums and is an easily drinkable red. Sometimes it is mixed with cabernet to add flavor but also has its own delicious flavor not in need of any other. Merlot is a medium-colored red wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet is a wine that ages very well for very long periods of time. It is among the driest of the red wines while maintaining a full bodied flavor and aroma. Cabernet is easy to recognize because of its deep purple color. Cabernet is the darkest and the heaviest of the red wines, often the go-to choice for red wine lovers.

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