You’ve heard the horror stories. Tales of bitter, tannic reds with enough acidity to burn your face off and leave you shuddering for days. Perhaps you’ve fallen victim to a dark red wine gone wrong. Or maybe fellow wine drinkers have scared you into avoiding these varietals all together. Fear not, friends. Grab a glass and face those monsters under the cellar. Take a sip of one of these bold and daring reds and discover why they are truly to die for…
One of the world’s most popular and widely planted grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon has a Frankenstein-esque history (don’t worry, this one ends much more positively than the orig). Back in the 17th century, wine growers experimented by crossing Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc to produce an entirely new grape. The experiment was a great success, thus, Cabernet Sauvignon was born. Like its monstrous doppleganger, this wine often exhibits green characteristics, a.k.a pyrazines, which produce aromas of crisp bell pepper. When ripe, Cab Sauv will be deep, dark and concentrated with flavors of blackberry, black cherries, boysenberry, earthy and even truffle.
Also known as “Côt” in France, Malbec is a deep, inky wine that dares to find the perfect balance between dark, juicy berries and striking spice. It’s typically medium to full-bodied with noticeable acidity and higher tannin and alcohol levels. Jammy flavors of plum, dark cherries and blueberries are followed by unexpectedly delicious notes of smoke, leather, baking spices, white pepper and violets. Possibly the scariest thing about Malbec is the fact that it almost did not survive in the wine world due to its sensitivity to disease and frost. Fortunately, it found a prosperous home in Argentina so we can all enjoy it paired with chimichurri or scary movie nights.
This scary story is slightly different. You know what we’re talking about. White Zin. Flashbacks of almost undrinkable boxed wine and college parties gone awry…It’s time to put those nightmares to bed. True Zinfandel is a red wine that’s often lighter in color than Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, but still very bold in flavor. Its higher alcohol content (usually around 14%!) creates a full-bodied mouthfeel and almost oily texture. The Cali-based grape produces a super ripe and jammy wine, making it a great transitional red for nervy white wine lovers. The added complexity from hints of spice, black pepper and licorice keeps red wine lovers coming back for more.
Blackberries, plums, black cherries, flowers, spice, earth, chocolate, licorice, blueberry, pepper, leather, smoke, truffles…Syrah is no joke. This deeply concentrated vino possesses just the right level of acidity and tannin, giving it the ability to age and evolve for years. If you’re too scared to try a bottle now, buy one and let it develop for a little while. Or, if you’re ready to take some baby steps, reach for a well-balanced GSM blend to start. Syrah makes up the “S” in the famous GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) French blends, and is responsible for imparting the wine’s rich, dark fruit flavors.
Don’t let the name fool you, this wine is far from teensy. Named after its small sized grapes, Petite Sirah, a.k.a. Durif, is one of the biggest, most powerful and tannic wines produced in America. While this might sound like the stuff of nightmares, it’s actually quite a delicious contrast to your garden-variety fruit bombs. With flavors of herbs, baking spices, licorice and bold blackberries, this dark and stormy wine is especially perfect for pairing. Face your fears and try a glass paired with savory dishes featuring spices, herbs, and smoky sauces.
Maybe you’ve been burned before. Scorned by a brutal, abrasive red that was not yet at its peak drinkability. But, just like the token actress in a B-list horror film, go back and stare down your demons. Grab your glass and see what all the noise is about. Sure, you may be the first one killed off, left crawling back to your white wine and light reds comfort zone. Or, you just may find that you are far bolder, braver and more badass than you thought.