Wine Tips & Tricks

Red Wines From Lightest to Boldest (Chart)

Identify similar tasting red wines based on their intensity from lightest to boldest.

The Spectrum of Boldness in Red Wines

Just 32 red wine varieties make up a majority of the wine available in the international market. If all red wines were placed on this chart, there would be hundreds!

What to interpret

This chart interprets the range of styles available in dry red wine. Although it’s possible to find a wine that doesn’t line up exactly as depicted, the chart can help explain that certain wines will always be lighter-bodied than others.

Where does boldness in wine come from?

A combination of several fundamental traits in wine define how bold it is. For example, the tannin level in wine is one of the indications of boldness, and so is high alcohol. On the lighter side, you’ll typically see wines with lower alcohol, less tannin and higher acidity. Another common way to identify a wine’s position in the spectrum has to do with its dominant fruit characteristics:

TIP: Wines may taste different than depicted depending where they’re grown and how they’re made

Climate Affects Intensity

The fascinating thing about wine grapes is the wide range of climates in which they can grow. However, you’ll notice that certain varieties grow only in cool climates and vice versa. Cooler climates tend to produce lighter red wines with higher acidity.

This chart shows us several red wine varieties and the climate types they prefer. Jones et all 2006
Here are a few useful takeaways from this chart:

  • Pinot Noir does not appear to grow alongside Cabernet Sauvignon
  • We can expect Cabernet Franc to have higher stylistic range based its ability to grow in varied climates.
  • Merlot can grow in cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bolder wine varieties tend to grow in warmer climates
  • Lighter-bodied wine varieties tend to grow in cooler climates

Explore More

Now that we know that certain grape varieties grow best in certain types of climates, let’s take a closer look at which wine regions are cool climate and which are warm climate on a map of the world.

Warm Climate vs. Cool Climate Wine Regions

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About Madeline Puckette

I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly