It’s impossible to overstate the pleasure of sitting down with a lovely bold reds wine when the cold weather sets in and the rain patters against the window. After all, winter is the perfect season for breaking out a nice bottle of warming Shiraz or a big Cabernet.
What may surprise you though is just how diverse your options have become in the last decade when it comes to bold reds, with many more winemakers embracing a broader spectrum of red grape varietals from the Mediterranean, France and Spain – and refining them for our distinctive climate and soils.
With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of what we think are the best bold red wines that are simply ideal for your winter tipples. Let’s begin!
Every aspect of Durif is intense. The colour, the aromatic presence, the fruit intensity… not to mention the depth and length of the tannins. Hailing from the south of France, Durif is now most prolific in Australia and Canada, celebrated for its wonderful ageing potential and how it thrives in warmer climates.
It also blends wonderfully with Shiraz, and shares many of the same dark fruit and chocolate flavours you often find in Cabernet Sauvignon. A truly luxurious red, best paired with richer foods that are high in fat – like braised meats and meaty pastas – to balance its robust tannins.
Sagrantino is one of the most tannic grape varieties in the world, with these powerful tannins helping to frame and support the wine’s intense core of fruit flavour.
Hailing from the southern part of Italy – most prominently Umbria, where it’s considered a regional hero – Sagrantino is somewhat similar to a full-bodied Shiraz, dark in colour with dense, black fruit characters.
It’s a big wine, so make sure to pair it with dishes like slow-cooked beef ribs, roasted venison fillet or baked root vegetables for optimal enjoyment of its immense flavour.
Touriga hails from Portugal where it is considered the number one red variety, and its most famed role is in that country’s vintage Ports.
It is characterised by its heady bouquet (lots of violets), deep colour, and its body and intensity. Australia has largely followed the lead of the Portuguese by not only using Touriga in our fortified wines, but also making it as a dry table wine – with impressive results! If you like deep coloured, aromatic and intense red wines, then this one is for you.
Serve it to friends who are Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon lovers and watch their faces light up. It’s a fantastic match with any BBQ – not only meat, but also vegetables – so serve it next time you fire up the grill.
4. PETIT VERDOT
Petit Verdot is one of the five key red varieties of Bordeaux, providing much of the tannin, colour and weight to this region’s famous blend.
While once considered a blending grape, growers in Australia, Argentina, Chile and the United States are beginning to champion this variety in its own right. Bold and full-bodied, rich in darks fruits and notes of black cherry, violet, plum, sage and lilac notes are common.
Strong, firm tannins and spice prevail due to the small berries and thick skin of this variety – fans of Cabernet Sauvignon in particular will love it, and as such it makes a perfect partner to similarly rich dishes like hard cheeses, roast lamb, and sticky pork ribs.
Shiraz originates from France’s northern Rhône Valley where it is known as Syrah, yet it’s as Australian as a meat pie, doesn’t taste too bad alongside one either, can grow almost anywhere, and is just at home at backyard barbeques as it is at hatted restaurants.
It’s no wonder that this variety is our go-to favourite, known for its bold richness, deep colours, fruit and spice flavours and firm yet fine tannins. Whether you prefer big and bold, medium-bodied savoury styles, or refined elegance, Shiraz can do it all.
It simply comes down to the climate and regional terroir, and the winemaker’s style as to what expression of Shiraz you are going to get – but it’s certainly capable of producing wines of great fruit depth and intensity that pair wonderfully with hearty beef dishes like stews, casseroles, sirloins… you name it! Shiraz, what would Aussie wine drinkers do without you?
Is there a more musical name for a wine than Zinfandel?
Also known by the Italians as Primitivo, this black-skinned grape has quickly gained a reputation for producing robust red wines that show off its intense fruit flavour, and a slightly higher alcohol content due to its abundance of natural sugar.
Depending on the winemaker and when it’s harvested, Zinfandel can display rich notes of strawberry, cherry, blackberry, anise, tobacco and apple skin, making for a powerhouse of a wine that despite its apparent heft is typically lighter in colour with moderate tannins.
Still, it certainly qualifies as a bigger, bolder wine that pairs well with both lighter meats like quail and turkey, as well as barbequed lamb or an aromatic curry.
Also known as Mataro and Monastrell, Mourvèdre is believed to have originated in Spain, and is historically a major variety of the Rhône region.
It absolutely thrives in warmer climates, and if you’re a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon it’s a safe bet that you’ll adore Mourvèdre. Meaty, rustic and big on tannins, it’s never really enjoyed the popularity it deserves here in Australia, and was previously used in fortified wines or Shiraz and Grenache blends. That’s been changing however, as more winemakers discover its unique characteristics as a single varietal.
With notes of plum, blackberry, roasted meats and cocoa, it demands equally full-flavoured dishes to partner it with – think stuffed mushrooms, roasted beetroot, or pork shoulder as well as barbequed lamb and game.
8. CABERNET SAUVIGNON
No list of big, bold reds would be complete without mention of the noble Cabernet Sauvignon.
Often referred to as the ‘king of reds’ for its immense ageing potential – a by-product of its immense tannin backbone – it really is one of this country’s great red wines, as evinced by the legendary status of Coonawarra Cabernets. It may not be as popular as Shiraz, but despite its origins in the Bordeaux, Australia really has made it its own.
Bold dark fruit flavours of blackcurrant, blackberry and plum are typical, though some varietal characters of cedar and mint often shine through. And with those mouth-watering tannins, it’s no wonder slow-cooked lamb shoulder, or any dish rich in warm, earthy spices – as found in Moroccan cuisine – make a perfect food and wine combination for the majestic Cabernet.
Neglected for decades in France as a lesser blending grape, Malbec was resurrected and championed in Argentina as an excellent single varietal wine. It’s now having a similar resurgence in Australia – and with good reason! Malbec combines fruit intensity and robust tannin depth, making it a cult favourite for lovers of rich red wine.
Similar in weight to Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon or Petit Verdot, Malbec has a big, juicy and plush flavour with a robust structure. It’s typically a distinctive dark purple colour in the glass, showing notes of red plum, blueberry, vanilla, cocoa and an essence of sweet tobacco.
Such bold flavours call for equally bold dishes to match, and when it comes to Malbec you can’t go wrong with hard cheeses, steak, or even a chickpea and chorizo hotpot. Given its distinctly Argentinian character, why not try a charcoal beefsteak with chimichurri sauce? You won’t be disappointed!
Regarded as Spain’s noble grape, Tempranillo is mostly commonly known throughout the world as the main grape variety used to make Rioja. Its name comes from the Spanish word, temprana, which means early, referring to the fact that it’s an early-ripening red variety.
Tempranillo has only been planted in Australian in the last couple of decades, which has made its rise to prominence as one of this country’s favourite alternative varieties even more spectacular. Its charms are powerful, with some even going so far as to call it ‘Pinot Noir on steroids.’ Cherry and raspberry fruit abound, with mouth-filling tannins and a savoury finish that leaves you wanting more.
In keeping with its Spanish heritage, the diverse savoury flavours and texture of tapas are a sensational match for this enchanting alternative red – but Mexican cuisine and spicy seafood are also exquisite choices to consider pairing it with.