The primary grape in the southern part of mainland Italy, Aglianico produces powerful, highly structured and complex wines known for notes of leather and cherries. They provide an interesting and more affordable alternative to their famous neighbors to the north made from Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barbaresco) and Sangiovese (Brunello and Chianti).
Shop Wines by Varietal: Aglianico
This grape is lighter in tannin and body than Cabernet Sauvignon and is often used for blending, particularly in Bordeaux. Herbal, strawberry and tobacco notes are its hallmark. It is also the primary component of Chinon in the Loire. These wines are dry and medium-bodied, with medium to high acidity and medium tannins. Serve at room temperature with eggplant, lean red meats, roasted pork and vegetarian dishes.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Cabernet Franc
Very fruity wines from the Piedmont region in Italy that are best consumed in their youth. Dolcettos are dry, light-bodied and low in acid, with medium tannins and hints of sweet cherry, strawberry, licorice and almonds. Serve at room temperature with grilled or roasted chicken, pasta with cheese and vegetables, or tomato-based dishes.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Dolcetto
Gamay is the grape responsible for the light- to medium-bodied wines of Beaujolais, France. Known for a fruity aroma, they are dry with high acidity and low tannins.
Beaujolais Nouveau, a product of this grape variety, is the first Northern Hemisphere wine released from each year’s harvest. Rushing to sample this wine upon its release date has become a worldwide November tradition.
Wines made from Gamay grapes pair well with chicken, cold cuts, pork, salads with meats, and spicy foods. Younger Beaujolais should be slightly chilled (50–55 degrees) while Cru Beaujolais is best at room temperature.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Gamay
An Italian grape known for a young, semi-sweet wine that is slightly fizzy, soft and fruity. Artisan producers make drier and more serious versions. These are light-bodied with medium acids and low tannins and hints of ripe fruit and fresh berries. Serve this slightly chilled (50–55 degrees) with light pasta dishes, mild cheeses or salad.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Lambrusco
An intense grape high in antioxidants that thrives in hot climates, Mourvèdre originated in the Spanish town of Murviedro and became the third pillar of Rhône reds alongside Grenache and Syrah. It is grown on the Mediterranean coast of France, in the Barossa Valley in Australia and in many wineries in California, and is also known by the names Mataró and Monastrell. Mourvèdre’s flavors mellow with age, and it is often tempered with Grenache and Syrah in Rhône blends.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Mourvèdre
A black grape variety that is known for its distinctive nose of violets and tar, this is the grape that is responsible for two famous wines of Piedmont, Italy: Barolo and Barbaresco. It is dry, full-bodied and high in both tannins and acidity. You may also detect notes of dark fruit, truffles, chocolate, mocha, aniseed and prunes. Its name is most likely derived from the Italian word nebbia, meaning fog, a frequent occurrence in the vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco during the harvest. Nebbiolo is also known by the names Spanna or Chiavennasca in other northern Italian regions, such as Valtellina, Gattinara and Ghemme. Serve these wines at room temperature (59–64 degrees) with red meats, game or truffles.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Nebbiolo
One of the most important grapes in Sicily, Nero d’Avola literally means “Avola black,” referring to the Sicilian town of Avola and the darkness of the grape. Nero d’Avola does well in hot, dry weather, and is also known by the name Calabrese. For many years it was known as a blending grape, but in the last few decades stand-alone varieties have become increasingly popular.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Nero d’Avola
A dark, tannic wine with a lot of intensity and power, Petite Sirah is most often seen in California, and is sometimes blended with Zinfandel to add color, tannin and complexity. Research has shown that this grape is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin. Its wines are dry and full-bodied and have high acidity and tannins, with notes of black pepper, plums, raspberry and blackberry.
Petite Sirah is also grown in South America and is sometimes labeled as “Durif.” Serve at room temperature (59–64 degrees) alongside game, grilled beef or Mexican food.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Petite Sirah
Pinotage is a variety of grape created in South Africa in the 1920s as a cross between Pinot Noir, which can be hard to grow, and Hermitage (or Cinsault) grapes. In its home country, Pinotage is used in everything from blends to fortified wine and sparkling red wines. Some wineries in New Zealand and the United States now also produce Pinotage.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Pinotage
The most widely planted red grape variety in Germany, Spätburgunder is a close relative or “clone” of Pinot Noir. Wines range from the light, fruity rosé Weissherbst to a full-bodied, spicy, Burgundian-style wonder made in the western Rheingau, where the river shifts direction. The Pfalz has also had critical success with this grape, both as a still wine and for Sekt, Germany’s sparkling wine.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Spätburgunder
Tempranillo is the primary grape used in the blend that makes up Spanish Rioja. It is also important in the Douro region of Portugal, where it is called Tinta Roriz and is used in Port wine production.
Tempranillo wines are dry and medium- to full-bodied with low acidity and medium tannins. Expect notes of black cherry, blackberry, balsamic vinegar, leather, brown sugar and tobacco.
Serve at room temperature (59–64 degrees) alongside braised or stewed meats, paella or roasted poultry.
Shop Wines by Varietal: Tempranillo