Five Types of Organic Red Wine You Should Try
According to Wine-Searcher, there are 65,168 wine producers in the world. Spread across 70 countries such as France, Australia, Spain and South Africa to much less familiar (in wine terms!) Peru, Israel and Slovenia. There are also well over 1, 368 vine varieties currently making wine in commercial circulation (both red and white), so it is fair to say there is huge diversity in wine styles available to us, the enthusiastic wine drinker!
Given the selection available to us, it’s a bit of a pity that so many of us stick to old favourites, without venturing into the exciting world of what we don’t know!
This is why, when we hear people say, “Oh, I don’t like red (or sometimes, white) wine…”, we always reply, “oh, you do, you are just yet to meet your red wine prince!”
From full-bodied, ripe, and bold to nervy and vivacious, organic red wines come in every possible imaginably style. If you like your red wines to be laden with black plummy fruit or prefer summer berry flavours, we have the wine for you. Some people like earthy, herbal organic red wines whilst others prefer spicy, warm oak numbers. It’s personal preference… but how can you truly know what your personal preference is if you haven’t tried a variety.
The purpose of this blog is to draw your attention to organic red wines that you might never have thought to try. Read on and we’ve also included five classic red wines that ought to be on your list of red wines to sample.
Five organic red wines you should try
It’s a challenge to pick only five and it’s certainly not a definitive list. Chosen for their individuality, varietal expression, curiosity, and exploratory value, each is a delicious find and worth a try in our book.
Old Hands Monastrell Roble
Bodegas La Purísima is made up of a collection of vineyard owners who have combined fruit and forces to make delicious wines in the Spanish DOC of Yecla. Monastrell is the main red grape in the area and the growers have an impressive 100 hectares of ungrafted Monastrell vines between them. It is fruit from these vines that go into this stunning wine. Delivering way and beyond its price point, it simply oozes bright, expressive fruit. We cannot recommend this highly enough.
“Subtle but spicy, it brings a taste of the aromatic herbs that surround the vineyards to the table in a pleasing and balanced way, with lots of cherry and red fruit flavours on the tongue”, John Clarke, The Independent May 2021.
Fuedo di Santa Tresa Frappato
Frappato is a charmer of a red grape, grown primarily on the Italian island of Sicily. The purists say you shouldn’t describe a grape variety with adjectives like joyful but Frappato is just that; bursting with fruit, full of zip and with enviable versatility for all sorts of food matchings… from grilled veggies to fish and meat dishes too.
Fuedo di Santa Tresa’s Frappato has previously been Wine of the Week for both Joanna Simon and Tamlyn Currin, so we are not alone in being seduced by the delights of this organic red. We think this a bargain at the price.
Christoph Bauer Zweigelt
Did you ever read those studies that concluded your given name was part of your predetermined success? Whether your first name began with a letter that came close to the beginning of the alphabet was seen to be better than if you were called Zac, for instance … that sort of thing.
Well, when you consider Zweigelt, you have to wonder if grape names are equally influential? It’s a cracking Austrian grape and the most widely planted red in the country. It comes in a range of styles, but our organic red Zweigelt is soft and inviting with rich blackberry fruits and baking spice all generously identifiable. Merlot lovers would do well to look in the direction of this Austrian star.
Château de la Marjolière Cahors
Play a game of wine word association and shout out ‘Malbec!’… A bottle of the very same suggests a likely response is ‘Argentina’. But did you know Malbec hails originally from Bordeaux and the French southwest? Modestly planted in Bordeaux, it’s still a key variety of Cahors.
We love this 80% Malbec (with 20% Merlot) for all sorts of reasons. It’s a refreshing change from the now-familiar Argentine styles. It’s made by a woman who is the only daughter and great-granddaughter of the original owners. A classic Cahors it is rich, leathery, textured, and full-bodied. A wonderfully traditional rendition of the grape.
Viña Ijalba Rioja Graciano
There was a time, not so long ago, when Graciano was at risk of being a fringe variety of red Rioja. Inarguably delicious with great structure and depth, it was nevertheless fickle to grow and a bit mean yielding. Viña Ijalba blazed a trail for the variety, being the first estate to make a single-variety wine from the grape.
They showed what worthy variety it is and now, happily, there are more Graciano wines around. We still consider Ijalba’s wine to be one of the finest; intensely aromatic with herb-tinged, floral black and dark red fruits. Full-bodied and elegant, this is Rioja like you’ll never have had it before. Terrifically moreish.
Five classic organic red wines to try
Classic. Iconic. Unmissable. These are five triumphant reds from some of the world’s finest estates and appellations.
This now, world-renowned wine, was a winner from the inaugural vintage and has been wowing the critics ever since. A full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre and Syrah, Coyam is rarely out of the headlines or without a 90+ point score!
Emiliana is Chile’s largest biodynamic producer and one of the world’s most significant.
Writing about the 2017 vintage, James Suckling said, “This is a very muscular bottling of this wine with blueberry, raspberry and cherry aromas that follow through to a full body, firm and silky tannins and long and rich finish. Driven and exciting with fruit and ripe tannins. Yet polished and reserved…” 96 points.
Felton Road Pinot Noir
Writing in the Real Review, Master of Wine Bob Campbell lists Felton Road Wines as one of the top three in New Zealand, “Best known for five elegant examples of Bannockburn Pinot Noir that seem to get better and better with every new vintage… Everything that winemaker Blair Walter touches seems to turn to gold… This modest, organic and biodynamic wine producer lets its splendid wines do the talking.”
Campbell went on to give the 2019 Bannockburn a cracking 96 points, saying, “Attractively aromatic with floral and berry notes that repeat on the palate, and are joined by ripe stems, dried herb and spicy oak flavours. A backbone of peppery tannins suggests obvious cellaring potential but appealing fruit sweetness makes it accessible now.”
Closerie Saint Roc
If you’re looking for a big name to drop in winemaking circles, try Pascal Amoureau. 14th generation of the legendary family who are winegrowers from the fabled, “Le Puy” in Bordeaux. In 2013 Pascal and his wife, Valérie with Harold Langlais purchased what they considered to be outstanding land at Closerie. They named their vineyard La Closerie Saint Roc – a small, enclosed estate, sitting on clay soils and a fossil-rich limestone subsoil.
Something special! From an estate purchased by the Amoreau family of legendary Château du Puy (now just called Le Puy), which has become one of just a few cult wines in Bordeaux.
To drink Closerie Saint Roc is to enjoy the thrill of exceptional “low-intervention” winemaking, using the finest fruit grown on a unique terroir. This is a wine with great finesse, mineral freshness, gentle tension, and purity. Perfectly balanced with ripe tannins and fresh acidity.
In a Decanter article entitled “10 Bordeaux Producers to watch”, Jane Anson wrote of the 2016 vintage, “Pulsing with dark fruit, lashings of cassis and blackberry The lift of Cabernet Franc is clear, although it was fewer violet notes than the 2018 that I tasted from cask, majoring instead of sweet earth and ripe autumnal berries, together with the hedgerow edge that I often find in Amoreau wines because of their grip, finely balanced acidities and saline finish. Extremely moreish”, 94 points.
Jacqueline André Châteauneuf du Pape
Modest, low-key, and utterly brilliant. Jacqueline André is a winemaker of great talent who lets her wines do all the talking. Don’t expect marketing campaigns, websites or Instagram… Domaine André is about one thing only and that’s great wine.
The 2016 vintage was awarded 95 points by Rhône specialist, Josh Raynolds at Vinous.com. “Glistening ruby-red. Expansive, spice and mineral-accented aromas of red fruit preserves, exotic spices, garrigue and candied flowers show superb definition and lift. Silky, broad, and alluringly sweet in the mouth, offering concentrated raspberry, boysenberry, spice cake and floral pastille flavours that put on weights with air. In a juicy, generous yet elegant style, with a refreshing jolt of minerality adding focus to the impressively long, youthfully tannic finish.”
Jacqueline has kept her father’s name in the name of the winery and, as he did before her, tends the vines (some 130 years old!) biodynamically. The soils at the property are diverse and range from smooth stones to clay, sand and limestone.
Il Palagio Sister Moon
So, what is a ‘Super Tuscan’? The term came about when winemakers in Tuscany started experimenting with international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. As they weren’t necessarily allowed to have these varieties in the DOCs at the time, the wines – frequently premium in style and price – had to be labelled as VdT, table wines. Not quite ‘glam’ enough, these wines – including Sassicaia and Tignanello – become known as Super Tuscans.
Our very own organic red Super Tuscan is made at Sting and Trudie Styler’s property, Il Palagio.
A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon this is a vibrant, cherry-laden red with vanilla and liquorice overtones. Beautifully textured with impressive structure, this is a wine that has the quality to age very nicely indeed. James Suckling writes of the 2016, “Gorgeous aromas of crushed berries and currants with violet and lavender undertones. Full body, fine tannin, and a long and polished finish. Shows drive and focus…”, 94 points.
Five red wine regions to explore
Vineyards are planted across Greece, though the main area vine growing areas are in Crete, the Peloponnese, Macedonia and Central Greece, close to Athens. Plantings are modest in comparison to other European countries, with just over 60,000 hectares of vineyard.
90% of the vineyards are planted with indigenous grape varieties which makes exploring organic Greek red wines really exciting and different. The most widely planted red varieties are Agiorgitiko and Liatiko. When young, Agiorgitiko yields easy-drinking, supple reds with red fruit flavours. It lends itself well to oak and the wines can be richly satisfying. Liatiko has an impressive concentration of flavours that can be herbal and mineral.
Discover our delicious organic Greek red wine here.
Writing in Wine Enthusiast, Anne Krebiehl, MW said, “Though Austria is largely known for producing outstanding white wines, more than one-third of the country’s vineyards, or nearly 39,000 acres, are planted to red grapes. Most of that is dedicated to indigenous varieties, adapted both to climate and soil.
At first glance, their names might look like an unfamiliar barrage of consonants. But grapes such as Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and St. (or Sankt) Laurent, as well as increasingly subtle versions of Pinot Noir, are worthy of your attention.
Austrian red wines are perfect matches for the trends of today. They fit that lighter, food-friendly paradigm of reds that offer toned silhouettes, with textures ranging from silky smooth to velvety. Their power is more often expressed aromatically than through assertive tannins or overly firm structures, while bright acidity highlights every nuance of fruit and spice.
These red wines offer unique expressions of quality, from joyful and fruit-forward picnic-ready pours to age-worthy, single-vineyard selections. It’s time to explore these Austrian originals and discover the bottles to try now.”
Explore Vintage Roots’ organic red wines from Austria here.
Thanks mostly to a thriving tourism industry, the wines of Mallorca have not gone unnoticed by the Brits. Yes, there are only 1,200-odd hectares of vineyard but there are thrilling indigenous varieties to explore here, rooted in calcareous limestone, clay and sandy soils. The main red varieties to be found in Mallorca are Manto Negro, Callet, Gorgollassa alongside international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot.
We have a Mallorcan gem from Can Axatrell which blends the local with the international. Buy it here.
As with much of Italy, Sicily has stayed true to its local varieties and this island is a treasure trove of delightful wines. You will find vineyards from Palermo in the west to Etna in the east. Etna, as you’d expect offers cooler temperatures and the possibility to plant at altitude. Head west to the south-eastern corner of Sicily and you’ll reach the altogether warmer and lower altitude, Cerasulo di Vittoria. This is the only DOCG in Sicily – a red wine, 50 to 70% of the blend must be Nero d’Avola with Frappato making up the balance. These super elegant wines are wonderful to try and quite different. The Rosso wines must be aged for eight months before release whereas the Classico wines must have 18 months ageing before being sold.
Vintage Roots work with Fuedo Santa Tresa in Sicily and you can discover their wines here.
Ah yes, England! We are not only a source of great sparkling and white wines. England is home to some very fine red wine too. Admittedly, it’s on an altogether much smaller scale but it makes it rather more fun!
English reds don’t come full-bodied, burly and with a heft of fruit. Rather, they’re on the sprightly, lighter-bodied side of things with delicate red berry flavours, sometimes a little herbal. Pinot Noir is being grown with success and you’ll find German varieties such as Dornfelder and Rondo too.
We get limited stocks of Davenport’s very rare – and very, very good – Pinot Noir. Sadly, that means we are quite often out of stock but keep looking because when it’s here, you should snap it up!
Five organic red wine and food pairings to try
There’s no fun in getting too prescriptive about food and wine pairings but if you’re looking for some ideas then here are some of our favourites.
Duck with Barbera d’Alba. The Italians know more than a thing or two about making wine that drinks well with food. It’s their intuitive ability to strike a balance between fruit, acidity, and tannin, all of which are so important in finding gastronomic balance!
A grilled duck breast or a roasted mallard served with a not too sweet fruit-based sauce is one of life’s great pleasures. Try with the Camparo di Mauro Drocco Barbera d’Alba.
Tempranillo with Lamb. Anyone who has done a wine trip to Spain – professional or otherwise – is bound to have been served up some grilled Spanish lamb cutlets with a glass of local Tinto. The flavour is unique and delicious… Of course, British lamb is just as tasty, but we still suggest you head to Spain for a red wine to serve with! Look no further than Bohem No Added Sulphur Tempranillo.
Beaujolais with Brie is one of those mid-week treats when cooking is just a stretch too far! Beaujolais Is Not Dead has just the right amount of juicy crunch to go down a treat with a heart-stopping chunk of Brie.
Salmon and Pinot Noir is a classic and enduringly successful. The key is to find a Pinot Noir that has a good weight of flavour but also a nice backbone of acidity. At the budget end, Adobe Pinot Noir Reserve is a good choice but if you want to splash out then the Loire, Reuilly Les Fossiles Pinot Noir is something special.
Vegetarian Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers with fresh Rioja … On a lazy day, the River Cottage recipe for red peppers stuffed with new potatoes, feta and pesto is a reliable favourite in this house. It’s both comforting, flavoursome and not too heavy. A wine that meets that description, to a tee, is the Viña Ijalba Rioja Crianza.
Organic red wine types
Not sure what type of organic red wine you should go for? We’ve broken down the main types of organic red wine you’ll come across and don’t worry, there’s a red wine out there to suit every taste.
Also known as Garnacha, Grenache is a wine that mixes the bright flavours of berries with soft acidity, and often a hint of spice thrown into the combination. It has a light colour, medium body, low tannins, and alcohol content can be 14%+. Grenache is often blended with other grapes such as Syrah/Shiraz.
The Grenache grape is grown in Spain, Australia and Southern France, where it is the primary ingredient in famous wines such as Côtes du Rhône. The flavours can vary according to the region:
Australian Grenache is inky purple, with a powerful, but silky mouthfeel. It is famous here for being the lead varietal in the ‘GSM’ blend – a full-bodied, rich wine made from Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre (sometimes called Mataro in Australia).
Spanish Garnacha wine is fuller-bodied and spicier, thanks to the hotter climate and later ripening. Cherry, blackberry and liquorice are all common flavours for the wine.
French Grenache wine has smokier notes, with herbal flavours like lavender, tobacco, and oregano. The wine can have a lower alcohol content here, but quality wine regions such as Vacqueyras can often be 14.5 or 15% alcohol.
Check out our full range of organic Grenache wines here.
If you’re looking for one of the most popular types of red wine in the world, look no further than Syrah – also known as Shiraz.
Syrah wines are as full-bodied as they get, with rich flavours, smooth tannins, and alcohol content of up to 15%. Shiraz grapes are cultivated around the world, with some of the more popular growing regions being:
- France (specifically in the Rhone Valley)
One of the great things about Shiraz/Syrah is that it has one of the highest antioxidant contents of any of the types of red wine. For health purposes, a bottle of Syrah/Shiraz organic red wine will be a heart-smart addition to your diet. It also has one of the highest antioxidant contents of any of the types of red wine.
You’ll find that the flavours of a proper Syrah differ according to the growing region, with some of the most common flavours including blackberry, peppermint, vanilla, spices. Syrah/Shiraz has a beautiful, velvety finish to it, making it one of the best types of red wine to pair with heavier meats like beef, duck, venison and lamb.
Check out our full range of organic Shiraz wines here.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular grape varieties used to make red wine, due to the simple fact that it can grow pretty much anywhere! Its history goes back to the 17th Century when a crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc produced their now famous offspring. The name Cabernet “Sauvignon” is derived from the French word for ‘savage’, which is used to describe the grape’s hardiness.
Cabernet Sauvignon wine is often used in blends, as the wine has a very deep, rich red colour that helps to darken lighter-coloured wines. The wine is opaque and has the classic ruby/purple colour that we associate with red wine.
Pro Tip: Young Cabernet Sauvignon wines tend to be a bit harsher, with higher tannin content. The best Cabs are cellared in oak barrels for several months or even years. The oak helps to soften the tannins, making the wine more approachable, and the extra years of ageing bring out the rich flavours and complexity of the grape.
Check out our full range of organic Cabernet Sauvignon wines here.
Merlot is another grape popular for blending, thanks to its dark, deep blue colour.
The flavours of organic Merlot wine tend to be fuller and softer than Cabernets, with less tannin even when the wine is young. It is one of the most affordable of the red wines, as well as the most approachable.
Merlot grows all around the world, including:
- France (particularly Bordeaux)
The grape can handle a lot of heat, and it has a wide ripening window. It is commonly blended with Cabernets and other wines, and it is an ingredient in many of the best wines in the world.
It has deep, fruity flavours, though much more intense than sweet. There are aromatic hints of currants, vanilla, berries, and plums. The wine pairs nicely with grilled steaks, fuller-flavoured cheeses, and tomato sauce-based dishes.
Check out our full range of organic Merlot wine here.
Pinot Noir is prized by winemakers and drinkers alike for the delicate, nuanced flavours it can provide, but its thin skin and susceptibility to disease make it tricky to grow. Burgundy is its spiritual homeland, but many other regions make excellent examples. It’s also used in Champagne, where the grapes are gently pressed to keep a pale colour.
While the mouthfeel is light and silky, with little tannin, the flavours can be like fresh raspberries and strawberries. More premium Pinot Noirs can develop secondary characters variously described as ‘forest floor’ or ‘earthy’ aromas. These might sound off-putting, but when combined with the fruit flavours, it makes for an intoxicating scent.
Pinot Noir is grown across the globe as winemakers are so often seduced by its charms and challenges, and it is frequently found in:
- France – its true home is Burgundy, but Languedoc now makes some excellent value alternatives
- New Zealand – increasingly producing world-class examples with an outstanding quality of fruit
- South America – cooler and higher sites are being used in both Chile and Argentina to find the elegance associated with top quality Pinot Noir
Organic Pinot Noir is unusual in that it is very rarely blended. The most notable example of blended Pinot Noir is Champagne, where it is a key ingredient in most wines, although it is pressed very gently to extract no colour from the skins.
Due to its lightness, it can be paired with both white and red meat and even fish such as turbot and tuna. ‘Earthier’ examples from Burgundy can be the perfect wine for game such as pheasant and grouse.
Check out our full range of organic Pinot Noir wines here.