There is a countless number of red grape varieties in the world, some superb for wine, others best suited for grape juice. Right now, the world wine market focuses on about 40 to 50 different red wine grape varieties. Below we've shown the most widely recognised and used.
What differentiates red wine from white is first, the skin colour of the grape, and second, the amount of time the grape juice has with its skins. After picking, red grapes are put into tanks or barrels where they soak with their skins, absorbing pigments and other aspects of the grape skin, such as tannins. This is how red wine gets its red colour. The exact colour, which can range from light red to almost purple, depends on both the colour of the particular grape skin and the amount of time spent on the skins. Remember, the inside of almost all grapes is a light, golden colour – it's the skins that have the pigment. For example, much of Champagne is made from Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier, both red grapes. Yet because the juice for Champagne is pressed quickly, with little time on the skins, the colour of Champagne is often white.
The list below is roughly organised from lighter-bodied to fuller-bodied, lower tannins to higher tannins and light colour to deeper colour – but note that this is not an "always" list, just a general guideline. And, European and old-world countries tend to label their wine by region, while new world wine is most often labelled with the grape variety.
Where they grow best
Burgundy, France; California; Oregon; New Zealand; Chile; Champagne, France; Australia
Tuscany, Italy; California
Rhone, France; Spain; California; Australia
Bordeaux, France; California; Washington State; Chile
Bordeaux, France; California; South America; Australia; South Africa
Rhone, France; Australia; South Africa; California; Washington State
Other popular red grapes and where they grow best: