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Top Red Wine Varietals to Try

Wine enthusiast enjoying a glass of Sandbanks Baco Noir on the sofa with some popcorn nearby.

What’s your red of choice? If you’re having a hard time naming one, we don’t blame you. Navigating a wine store can be daunting, especially with so much choice and narrowing down which varietal you’re in the mood for.  

To help you decide on which red is your favourite, we’ve spotlighted the top 4 red wine varietals to try and what makes each noteworthy. Buckle up, and let’s dive into the world of reds! 

Pinot Noir: The Gateway Red

With a name stemming from the French words for “pine” and “black,” Pinot Noir is a light to medium-bodied classic that is a great entry point for those new to red wines. Its gentle tannins, vibrant red fruit aromas, and high acidity make it exceptionally approachable. Unmatched in its depth and nuance, Pinot Noir holds the title of the world's most cherished grape. But what makes it so special? On the nose, it is full of red fruits and yet, it has complex layers of earthiness, spice, smoke, and vanilla. With a multifaceted flavour profile, you can experience notes of ripe cherry and raspberry, enriched by hints of mushroom, tea leaves, and clove. 

Wine lover pouring a glass of Inniskillin Pinot Noir. 

Typically, the alcohol content for Pinot Noir hovers between 12 – 14%, lending to its smooth and refined texture. For an optimal tasting experience, Pinot Noir should be served slightly chilled, in the range of 55 – 60°F (12 – 15°C). This ideal temperature will boost the wonderful aromatics without the alcohol overpowering your senses. To truly unlock its full aromatic potential, consider decanting your Pinot Noir for roughly 30 minutes before sipping. And for food pairings, it’s extremely versatile. Whether you’re serving salmon or a hearty duck dish, Pinot Noir complements with ease, and is also a safe choice if you’re dining out with friends, especially with everyone ordering a different entrée. 

Merlot: Most Versatile Player

Let's talk about an MVP of the wine world – Merlot. Known as the quintessential medium-bodied red, Merlot is the second-most planted grape in the entire world. Known for its versatility, Merlot can range from light, fruity, and approachable to rich, deep, and cellar-worthy.  

Bottle and 2 glasses of Sandbanks Kiss Merlot-Cabernet paired with a charcuterie board.

A real crowd-pleaser and dinner-party go-to, Merlot is a food pairing favourite. It can complement almost any dish with everything from comfort classics, like mac & cheese and pizza, to more gourmet choices, like roast chicken and beef short ribs. This versatile varietal is best savoured a tad cooler than room temperature, which is between 60 – 68°F (15 – 20°C). This ideal serving temperature will bring out the wine's fragrances without enhancing the alcohol content. Letting your Merlot breathe for about 30 minutes before drinking will also help to enhance its character.

Cabernet Sauvignon: World’s Most Planted Grape

When you think of a wine with character, Cabernet Sauvignon immediately comes to mind. Boasting a full body and big bold flavours, this red is renowned for its intense concentration and ability to age gracefully. Cabernet Sauvignon's high acidity and abundant tannins make it an ideal match for rich, fatty meats, like steak and lamb, to flavour-rich stews and mushroom-heavy dishes. 

Pouring of Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Sauvignon paired with red grapes.

This grape variety is the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, so its herbaceous zest is a gift from Sauvignon Blanc, while the dark fruit notes and tannins are inherited from Cabernet Franc. Depending on the origin and winemaking process of a Cabernet Sauvignon, some can be lush and fruity, while others have a savoury and smoky profile. For the best experience, serve this red wine at a temperature of 60 – 68°F (15 – 20°C). To smooth out a high-alcohol Cabernet Sauvignon, letting it breathe for around an hour makes a huge difference, and will help soften the pronounced tannins. 

Baco Noir: Ontario’s Standout Grape

For our local wine drinkers, here’s an Ontario gem: Baco Noir! This hybrid red wine grape is celebrated for its fruit-forward profile, combined with bold, smoky flavours. With a high acidity and modest tannins, its fruity and earthy nature makes it a versatile pairing option. Be it grilled meats, aged cheeses, tomato-based dishes, and spicier fare.

A bottle of Sandbanks Baco Reserve

On the nose, you’ll experience dark fruits from plum and black currant to black cherry and blueberry as well as aromas of coffee, vanilla, and smoke. On the palate, Baco Noir offers lush fruit such as plum and raspberry to coffee, licorice, and chocolate notes. Serve it at a slightly cooler room temperature of 60 – 63°F (15 – 17°C).  

Discover Some of Ontario’s Best Red Wines at Wine Rack

Couple enjoying a glass of Sandbanks French Kiss Merlot-Cabernet cozied up on the sofa.

Exploring a wine store can sometimes feel overwhelming as you determine which varietals suit your taste the best. To help guide your selection, we’ve highlighted four standout red wine varietals to try in this blog as well as the unique traits that make them shine. So, why not experience these varietals firsthand? 

Wine Rack offers a treasure trove for wine enthusiasts, including local and award-winning wines from Jackson-Triggs and Sandbanks to Inniskillin as well as bestselling wines from Bodacious, Saintly, and BASK. Wine Rack celebrates all types of red wine varietals, from bold Cabernet Sauvignon and easy-sipping Pinot Noir to smoky Baco Noir, fruit-forward Merlot, and even unique red blends. At Wine Rack, our local wine experts are there to help with wine recommendations anytime you visit. If you prefer online shopping, you can explore our wide selection of local reds, whites, sparkling, rosé, and iconic Icewines from the comforts of home. Shop all our red wines now!

We hope this blog has helped you on your journey of discovering which red is your favourite! Cheers to exploring new wines, elevating your dining experience with complementary wine pairings, and serving your wine at the optimal temperature for the best taste experience. 

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