What is a Dry Red Wine?

Everyone loves a dry red wine with a decadent, savory comfort meal. Sipping an expensive Merlot with authentic spaghetti is something close to heaven. When added to the sauce, a classic Italian wine like Chianti will bring out the bold spices of the herbs.  

It’s difficult to resist that smooth tannic explosion on the palate when it comes to these two wines. But what makes a red wine dry, and what are the best ones for cooking and meal pairing? 

Let’s indulge our curiosity on all things dry red wine. 

What Makes a Red Wine Dry?

Since a wine’s sweetness depends on its residual sugars, a red wine will taste sweet or dry depending on how much sugar is left behind during the fermentation process. 

Dry red wine will contain less than 1% residual sugar, about 9-10 grams per liter. Organic compounds and proteins like tannins will also make red wine taste drier, giving each glass an earthy flavor. 

You might experience a puckering sensation on the palate as these peppery tannins give dry red wine an astringent taste. 

Keep reading for a list of famous red wines on the dry side. 

Dry Red Wine Types

Dry Red Wine Types

The contrasting dark fruit flavors mixed with a peppery finish are common dry red wine characteristics experienced wine drinkers fawn over. 

Here’s a list of some of our favorite classic dry red wines!

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a popular dry grape variety grown all over the world. With notes of vibrant black cherries and tannins that lend to a fine leather and tobacco taste, this famously dry red is the core grape used in France’s Bordeaux blend. 

This wine tastes best with a hearty dish containing red meat. 

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir may be one of the light-bodied wines, but that doesn’t make its flavors anything less than complex. This wine boasts balanced raspberry, cherry, and mushroom flavors and a zing of acidity. The noir grape thrives in cooler climates and is thought to have originated in Burgundy, France. It is one of the world’s oldest and most beloved red wines. 

Pair Pinot Noir with lamb, salmon, poultry, or anything with mushrooms for a prime sipping experience. 


Though not technically one of the dessert wines due to its low sugar levels, this full-bodied red tastes irresistible when sipped alongside dark chocolate lava cake. With blackberries, cherries, and plum flavors, Merlot will taste divine with beef, chicken, veggies, and decadent chocolate desserts. Its black pepper tannins and bold astringency hold their own against hearty dishes and add bold flavors. 

Red wine food pairings


If there’s a dry red wine made for easy sipping, it’s Zinfandel. Light-bodied and bursting with strawberry flavors, this wine ranges from spicy to bold. There are also sweeter versions of Zinfandel that make it an excellent dessert wine. Pair a dry Zinfandel with grilled meats to get the most out of its flavors. 


One of Argentina’s signature grape varieties, Malbec is thick with tannins. It is smooth with low acidity and features blackberry, dark cherry, and red plum notes. Malbec is ripe with vanilla, oak, and tobacco flavors when aged. Pair this wine with dark meats, stuffed jalapenos, pizza, and pasta. 


Medium to full-bodied with blackberry and tobacco flavors, this dry red will wrap your palette in smokey tannins. When grown in a warm climate, Syrah will take on a jam-like consistency, softer tannins, and licorice flavors. This is one elegant and savory drink, so pair Syrah with a steak meal and hard cheeses for a five-star experience. 

What is Sangiovese Wine?


Sangiovese is Italy’s most famous wines and a naturally perfect match for authentic Italian cuisine. With flavors of bright cherry, savory tomato, plum, and violet low-tannin, medium-bodied wine tastes decadent with herb-infused tomato sauce and rich desserts. Sangiovese is a Super Tuscan wine and a key ingredient in Chianti. 


Often blended with Garnacha (Grenache) in Rioja, Tempranillo is Spain’s version of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its high tannins and acidity make it perfect for long-term aging. Intense dried fig flavors, dark fruit, and cherry notes characterize Tempranillo. Enjoy this wine with lamb, chicken, and braised beef. 


Often considered the king of Italian red wine, Nebbiolo is rich with tannins and acidity. Its cherry, rose, cranberry, and violet flavors make it lush, dry, and fruity on the palate. Pair this potent red wine with fatty meats, truffles, wild mushrooms, and tomato-based dishes. 


Originally from Spain, Grenache is the star grape of France’s Châteauneuf du Pape and Côtes du Rhône. Its flavors include spice-infused strawberries, raspberries, black cherries, and anise. Because of its stew-like taste, Grenache is a decadent pairing for flavorful beef stews. Its peppery flavors make it a perfect complement to mushroom pasta, grilled vegetables, and smoked cheese. 


Made primarily from Sangiovese grapes, this essential Italian wine boasts smooth tannins and moderate acidity. On the palate, Chianti exhibits spice-infused red fruit flavors and dried herbs. True to its origins, this wine is best paired with classic Italian cuisine like pizza.

Dry Red Wine for Cooking

If your recipe calls for dry red wine, several choices will add intense flavors and soften textures. Because of its pronounced tannins and acidity levels, red wine is perfect as a marinade and meat tenderizer. 

When soaked in dry red wine for several hours, beef and fish will become soft, tender, and infused with rich fruit and spice flavors. 

Let’s find out which dry red wines best complement your cooking process. 

Which red wine is best for your dish?

Cabernet Sauvignon

The next time you braise pork or make a hearty beef stew, Cabernet Sauvignon should be your go-to. This wine is versatile and classic for cooking. Its full-boded complexity and robust spice flavors will soften any meat, making it wonderfully delectable. Cabernet is best sipped alongside or as an ingredient for those heartier dishes. 

Pinot Noir

Because of its light fruit and mushroom flavors, Pinot Noir is the perfect ingredient for most meat dishes and won’t overwhelm the added spices. 

Need to liven up your poultry or seafood? No problem! Pinot Noir is also essential in the classic French dish, Beef Bourguignon.


Merlot has the depth, body, and complexity to add that unique blackberry kick if you're cooking with lamb, short ribs, steak, or pork. You can also simmer Merlot in a pan on low for an easy, excellent reduction sauce. 


Chianti’s Italian heritage, tart acidity, peppery fruit, and herbal flavors make it the perfect savory addition to marinara sauce. Trust us, adding Chianti to your spaghetti will taste divine. 

The Best Dry Red Wine

Whether simply sipping or spicing up your cooking, dry red wine is versatile enough to suit most of your culinary needs. 

The best dry red wine for your meal will depend on taste preferences and what will best suit your recipe. 

There’s no need to spend an exuberant amount of money when choosing a wine to cook with. A cheaper dry red wine will work amazingly well. 

Thankfully, our wine shop offers many high-end red wines for less than $20

Don’t forget to check out Macy’s Wine Shop blog for more recipes and wine pairings!