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November 13, 2023

25 Best Red Wines to Drink This Valentine’s Day: Sommelier Picks

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We’re officially through the major holidays, but winter still has some staying power and February 14th is fast approaching. If you ask us, Valentine’s Day is best enjoyed at home, cooking with your partner or ordering takeout, and enjoying some of the best red wines, all the while avoiding overpriced prix fixe dinners at restaurants. But, boy, are there plenty to choose among: sweet red wine, dry red wine, Italian red wine, Spanish red wine, cabernet sauvignon, merlot. The list goes on.

Red wines generally have a higher ABV (alcohol by volume) and are more full-bodied than white wines, making them a perfect complement to fire-side sipping, decadent meals, and savoring with gourmet chocolates. But there are also some lighter reds that feel just right ahead of spring.

That’s why our top pick for the best overall red wine to drink now is a supple gamay from the Beaujolais wine region in France clocks in under $30 and is a great pick for any Valentine’s Day celebrations.

“One of the 10 Cru Beaujolais, Saint-Amour (Saint Love) is made from the gamay grape, and is one of the lighter, prettier expressions to come from this region in the south of Burgundy,” says Dean Fuerth, beverage director of the Michelin-starred Sushi Nakazawa in New York, Washington D.C., and the soon-to-open location in LA. “The streets in this charming village are even decorated with hearts and Cupids.”

The Domaines des Billards pairs beautifully with a light fish, but remember this rule on pairing if you’re preparing a Valentine’s dinner at home: “The more fat you have on the plate, the more tannin you want in your wine,” says Jay James, master sommelier and president of Benchmark Wine Group.

Sweet red wine, like lambrusco, pairs beautifully with gouda on a charcuterie board; dry red wine, like a medium-bodied chianti, is versatile and a friendly pairing with pastas, pizzas, and meats; pinot noir has gentle acidity to balance fat and goes well with filet mignon; and the best cabernet sauvignon can be savored near a crackling fireplace to finish off the night.

Best Overall Red Wine: Domaine des Billards Saint-Amour 2021

Domaine des Billards Saint-Amour 2021

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is fun for Valentine’s Day and, in general, as a late-winter, early-spring red wine. Expect aromatics of cherry blossoms, rose petals, and tart raspberries, with a bright, vibrant palate, says Fuerth. He recommends serving it chilled and paired with a mild, delicate fish like hirame or shima aji. 

Best Sweet Red Wine

Lambrusco, rosso dolce, red zinfandel, port, and sparkling red wine are among the most common types of sweet red wine. When it comes to Valentine’s Day, sweet red wine is often a good pairing with bookend courses: appetizers and dessert. We like moscato as it’s sweet, often bursting with notes of strawberries and raspberries. Your palate might also pick up on stone fruits like peach or nectarine, making it a match made in heaven with chocolate. Roscato is also a sweet red wine—from Lombardy, a northern region in Italy—that’s typified by having a palate of berries and a delicate fizz.

Forbidden Kiss Sweet Red Sparkling Wine

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If you’re looking for a sweet red (with a touch of fizz), is a great bottle for Valentine’s Day, says Brian Gelb, vice president of wine merchandising at Total Wine & More. Made in France via the ancestral method, it’s a modern take on a classic style: The carbonation comes from the natural fermentation of sugar. There’s no added carbonation or sugar. “This wine pairs brilliantly with a molten chocolate cake due to its natural sweetness, red fruit, and full-bodied sparkling style,” he says.

Quady Red Electra Moscato

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has a slight effervescence and is brimming with juicy cherry and pomegranate flavors. It’s a fun, sweet red wine to enjoy with chocolate or brownies. The moscato is made with orange and black muscat grapes that are naturally sweet and musky. This moscato could also be used to make a boozy sorbet for dessert. Pour it over a scoop or two of raspberry sorbet in a coupe glass.

$14 at Drizly

Best Dry Red Wine

The opposite of sweet wines, dry red wine is light on residual sugars, usually less than 1 percent. (You can often find this intel on a wine’s “tech sheet” that details its tasting notes, origin, and alcohol content.) Chianti, sangiovese, and tempranillos are often the most dry reds, but pinot noirs, merlot, and cabernet sauvignons also fall in the category. 

Josh Cellars Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

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, as the name suggests, is a full-bodied, barrel-aged cab with a kiss of bourbon. The brand’s award-winning cabernet sauvignon is aged for two months in charred bourbon barrels, creating greater depth and complexity. You’ll find notes of caramel and warming spice that play well with the more traditional notes of plum. It’s the bottle to pair with smoked meats or decadent desserts.

$17 at Drizly

Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde 2018

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Syrah from the Northern Rhone is bold and complex with a beguiling depth of flavor. Its rich aroma is redolent of dark fruits, spices, and earthiness, says Jason Hedges, beverage director at Laurent Tourondel Hospitality and author of The Seasonal Cocktail.

“These qualities make it a great companion to heartier dishes like cozy slow-cooked meals ideally enjoyed by the fireplace during the colder months,” he says.

He recommends something like a lamb shank with roasted carrots, parsnips, and potatoes and paired it with a delicious bottle of Cote Rotie.

“Cote Rotie is made from syrah and comes from the Northern Rhone region in France and is famous for its powerful and complex profile of dark fruits, smoked meat, earthiness, spice, and velvety texture,” he says. The flavors and texture of the wine harmonize with the savory and meaty flavors of the lamb shank and the earthy flavors of the roasted root vegetables.

Best Cheap Red Wine Under $25

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a good bottle of red wine. Some of the best red wines cost between $15 to $30, according to sommeliers. For example, merlots are often some of the best cheap red wines because their grapes aren’t too finicky, making them easier to harvest and keep costs down. They’re approachable, too, falling in the middle of the red wine spectrum in terms of sweetness. But you can find some reasonably priced pinot noirs, cabernet sauvignons, and red blends to keep on-hand for parties and host gifts, too.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

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Do yourself a favor and keep a few bottles of La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir on your wine rack. This is a reliable cheap red wine to pair with weeknight meals. It’s supple and juicy, bursting with dark berries on the palate, and goes with just about anything you put on the table.

$20 at Wine.com
$23 at Drizly

Conundrum Red Blend

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Chill Conundrum Red Blend ever so slightly (you want it in the 55- to 60-degree Fahrenheit range) before serving. Your palate will pick up some decadent notes of dark berries and chocolate. It’s a great cheap red wine to crack open and sip while snacking on hard cheese and prepping your Valentine’s Day dinner.

$21 at Total Wine
$19 at Drizly

San Gregorio Single Vineyard Las Martas

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If you’re the type of person who’s bold enough to schedule a first date on Valentine’s Day, but don’t know what your date likes to drink, gravitate toward a Spanish garnacha, says Brian Gelb, vice president of wine merchandising at Total Wine & More, with bottles like this San Gregorio Las Martas consistently gets over 90 points for just $11).

“The wines are lush, full-bodied, with lots of bright fruit, but not overly oaked or tannic,” Gelb says. “Spanish garnacha is a crowd-pleaser and it pairs well with everything from steak to seafood.” 

$11 at Total Wine

Best Semi-Sweet Red Wine

Don’t love a bone-dry red wine, but also don’t want something too sweet? Wines that have residual sugars somewhere between 3 to 5 percent are considered semi-sweet red wine, or sometimes even “off dry.” This can be a tricky category, because what one wine drinker considers just right may be too sweet for another, and sweetness levels can depend on the winemaker. (Grenache, for example, can fluctuate from dry to sweet.) Semi-sweet red wine varieties include malbec, merlot, and zinfandel.

Rabble Zinfandel

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You’ve just ordered Chinese takeout and are settling in for the night to watch a movie. Graband give you and your partner a big pour. It’s a fun one because it’s got some notes of cola and Asian spices, and it complements popular dishes like sweet and sour pork. 

$22 at Total Wine
$20 at Drizly
$23 at Wine.com

Linganore Steeplechase Red

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Linganore Steeplechase Red is an easy-on-the-wallet semi-sweet red wine that’s great for a few reasons. It works well as a mulled wine, as a light sipper for cheese and apps, and has a nice hint of cherry so you can also save it for dessert.

Best Italian Red Wine

Tuscany may be Italy’s most well-known wine region, but the country has 20 different regions and produces several hundred varieties of wine. There are countless covetable bottles of Italian red wine to try, from sparkling red lambruscos hailing from Emilia-Romagna to Tuscany’s beloved chianti classico to berry-forward nero d’Avola from Sicily.

Tasca D’almerita Regaleali Nero d’Avola

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Tasca D’almerita Regaleali Nero d’Avola from Sicily is silky and boasts ripe mulberry and cherry notes with a soft hint of vanilla. Grapes are harvested from a 1,500-acre estate with a dozen different soils that the winemaking family considers to be the “blessed hills of Regaleali.” Lucky for us, there’s a good number of nero d’Avola bottles in production so it’s not too hard to track down. It shines with cured meat, sausage, rabbit, and pasta.

$17 at Drizly

Marenco Pineto Brachetto d’Acqui 2020

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Marenco Pineto Brachetto d’Acqui 2020 is a fun sparkling red wine for Valentine’s Day dessert, says John Cassanos, beverage director at Tre Rivali in Milwaukee, WI. “With low alcohol and sweet red fruit, it’s a perfect wine with chocolate, panna cotta, or coeur la crème.”

$24 at Wine.com

Best Spanish Red Wine

Your search for a great Spanish red wine will likely lead you to full-bodied, plummy, leathery reds from Rioja that easily pair with meats and cheeses. But if you can get your hands on a bottle made with bobal grapes (they’re widely planted in Spain, but wines are harder to find stateside), grab one and enjoy the rich berry and subtle chocolate notes.

Campo Viejo Reserva

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Ripe berries are the star of the show in Campo Viejo Reserva. But it has some surprises in store, too, like earthy tobacco notes and a long, subtly spicy finish. This is a Spanish red wine that can stand up nicely to Manchego cheese and roasted vegetables. For Valentine’s Day, pair with a juicy steak topped with blue cheese butter.

$16 at Total Wine
$15 at Wine.com
$13 at Drizly

Paolo Bea San Valentino Rosso 2018

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“When you’re ready to impress with a romantic dinner at home, show off your Bolognese recipe (or wild boar ragu to take it up another level) with Paolo Bea San Valentino Umbria Rosso,” says Randall Middleton, sommelier at Esters Wine Shop & Bar in Santa Monica, CA.

The wine is a magical blend of spicy, herbaceous sangiovese and brooding, inky sagrantino that manages to coalesce into something both intensely powerful and playfully ethereal at the same time, Middleton says.

$66 at Wine.com

Best Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet sauvignon, or cabs, are one of the most popular red wines for fall and winter—and for good reason. They’re bold, pair nicely with meat dishes, and your palate will pick up on dark fruit and sometimes tobacco, pepper, or vanilla.

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

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Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon hits everything you want in a high-quality cab with flavors that include boysenberry, fig, dark chocolate, and familiar spices like clove and nutmeg. It’s a nice bottle to enjoy on Valentine’s Day. The 2018 vintage has a velvety richness with vanilla bean and hazelnut.

$65 at Wine.com
$60 at Drizly

Bonanza Lot 6 Cabernet Sauvignon

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Big and bold with dark berry flavors and a kiss of dark chocolate, Bonanza Lot 6 Cabernet Sauvignon delivers on cabernet sauvignon’s promises. It’s smooth and has a nice price point for the category. 

$22 at Wine.com
$27 at Drizly

Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

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Cabernet sauvignon and steak with a simple fruit-and-red-wine reduction sauce, such as juniper berry, is a perfect Valentine’s meal, says David Weitzenhoffer, sommelier and owner of Community Wine & Spirits in New York. One of his favorites for this time of year is Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, an elegant cab from Washington state. When you lift it for a sip, your nose might pick up something sweet like crème brulée. 

$59 at Wine.com

Best Dry Red Wine for Cooking

When it comes to selecting the best dry red wine for cooking, chefs follow this rule: Use the wine you’d pair with the recipe, says Melissa Smith, founder of Enotrias Elite Sommelier Services. Depending on how much the recipe requires, you might have to buy two bottles.

“Overall you want to stick with a wine that has low alcohol, minimal tannins, and expressive fruit,” she says.

Red wines have a lot of uses in cooking and baking (read: adding pinot noir to brownie batter).

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Merlot

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Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Merlot is a plummy, fruit-forward merlot that can be used to marinate short ribs or make a fruit-forward demi-glace sauce to ladle over white meat or risotto. It would also be a decadent addition to a chocolate cake recipe. 

$16 at Wine.com
$13 at Drizly

Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

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Blackberry and cocoa notes in make it an ideal candidate for baking. But it’s also fantastic for braising vegetables or as an addition to a beef stew or French onion soup.

$18 at Wine.com
$16 at Drizly

Best Light Red Wine

In general, light red wines are lighter in alcohol content, usually clocking in under 12.5 percent ABV. These varieties are usually lighter in color, have fewer tannins, and are higher in acidity. They’re the perfect sip for early fall or easing into the red wine category. Pinot noir, gamay, lambrusco, and grenache all fall under this category.

Lo-Fi Wine Gamay/Pinot Noir

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Lo-Fi Wine Gamay/Pinot Noir is a light, chillable red from Santa Barbara County with 12.5 percent ABV. With tart red berry flavors, it’s a dream pairing for cheese and charcuterie, pigs in a blanket, and Mediterranean takeout.

$28 at Wine.com

Elouan Pinot Noir

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Oregon’s cool climate yields some great pinot noirs. Elouan Pinot Noir is made with grapes from not one but three of the state’s wine-growing regions. It’s everything you want in a quality pinot noir: Fruit-forward tartness, a hint of spice (in this case, cloves), some earthiness, and it delivers a crowd-pleasing medium finish. On the palate, expect tart cherry and wild bramble flavors balanced with fresh-tilled earthy notes. It’s a versatile bottle to have on-hand.

$18 at Wine.com

Best Merlot

Merlot is one of the most popular red wines, with the grapes growing in some of the most famous wine regions like Bordeaux, Tuscany, Chile, Northern California, and Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe. Merlots are medium- to full-body reds, and there’s a full range of flavors in each sip, ranging from rich, dark fruits to dried herbs to mocha and chocolate.

Apothic Merlot

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A budget find, Apothic Merlot is jammy with hints of boysenberries and blueberries. This plays well with just about anything on the table for Valentine’s Day, from stew to lasagna to beef stir-fry.

$11 at Wine.com
$9 at Drizly

Emmolo Merlot

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Dark berry flavors mingle with earthy notes and leathery tannins in Emmolo Merlot. Pair it with a mushroom risotto, grilled sausage, or pork chops.

$59 at Total Wine

Best Non-Alcoholic Red Wine

Makers are creating a dizzying array of non-alcoholic drinks including non-alcoholic beers and non-alcoholic spirits. Should you want to dip your toe in non-alcoholic wines, you can find reds that are layered and nuanced (read: don’t taste like grape juice). 

Surely’s Non-Alcoholic Red Blend

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This maker starts with cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah grapes to make the blend. Alcohol is removed after the grapes are fermented, then an organic tea blend is added to give it a nice mouthfeel. The result is a layered non-alcoholic red blend that’s a bit spicy and smoky.  

$27 at Surely

Non #7 Stewed Cherry & Coffee

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A dry lambrusco and sparkling shiraz inspired Non #7 Stewed Cherry & Coffee, which is fizzy and contains caffeine. If you pick up on coffee notes, you’ve nailed it. A cold brew coffee gives this non-alcoholic red wine its chocolate finish and adds tannins. Serve this up with dessert in lieu of an espresso martini.

$34 at The New Bar
$30 at Boisson

Best Red Wine Regions 

Not sure where to start when it comes to finding the best red wines of the season? Come winter, turn your attention to regions like Burgundy and the Rhône Valley in France, and Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, where the vino isn’t too heavy and pairs exceptionally well with a variety of ingredients commonly found on fall menus, says Evan Vallee, advanced sommelier at Sandpiper Wood Fired Grill & Oysters in La Jolla Shores, CA.

“These regions generally have good quality across the board and increase your chances of finding something delicious at every price point,” he says.

Related: 55 Valentine’s Day Gifts for Her: Ideas for Your Wife or Girlfriend

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