“Red blend” is a “does what it says on the tin” kind of term — it tells you everything and nothing about what’s inside. Put simply, a red blend is a wine made with a blend of red wine grapes. The category has come to signify a particular type of New World red wine, often from California, that has been blended to resemble classic European regional wines, such as Bordeaux. (No, Bordeaux, although a classic blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is not considered a “red blend.” Yes, we need to come up with better terminology around red blends.)
If your red wine preferences tend toward monovarietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, it’s time to give red blends a chance. The fact that they are tailor-made to suit individual winemakers’ preferences and goals means that there is a wide range in flavor profiles — and prices — of red blends.
To help you navigate an admittedly ambiguous category, we’ve pulled together a list of the best red blends we’ve tried in the past six months. The wines on this list have all been graded A+ to B in VinePair’s wine reviews written by VinePair tasting director Keith Beavers.
Within each letter “grade,” wines are listed by price, lowest to highest. While half the bottles on this list are $35 or under, there are also a few worthy splurges that decisively prove that “blended” isn’t a synonym for “cheap.”
Here 25 of the best red blends you can buy right now.
Tablas Creek Vineyards Cotes de Tablas Red 2018 (A+) ($36.00)
This is a great American wine. It has depth and a big personality, while not sacrificing subtlety. This bottle is a joy to drink, and I am not sure I want to share. The nose smells like blackberry compote and fresh cracked black pepper. Also, if you’ve ever been in an herb garden, your brain will go straight there when you stick your nose in the glass. The tannins are grippy, framing all of this awesome. Instead of steak, I’m thinking about roasting some pork or maybe grilling up lamb. BRB.
The legacy of fine wine in Napa Valley is highly maintained here. This is an incredible bottle with brooding dark berry and smoked salt aromas. In terms of structure, it’s the definition of full-bodied with seamless tannins still folding into the wine. This is the kind of wine that hits your palate and you can’t help but pause and enjoy the moment before you take the next sip. It’s more than the price of a pair of AirPods but damn, is it amaze.
P.S. Garcia Bravado Red Blend 2016 (A) ($21.00)
This wine is so well built. It’s comprised of five grapes and the result is a seamless, fruit-driven, earthy, incredibly balanced wine. It smells like herbed steak tartare and blackberry compote sprinkled with fresh cracked black pepper. The palate is full and juicy, with excellent integration of tannins, making you just want to chew on it. Buy as many as you can afford, because this wine is only going to get better. But it’s ready for a lean steak dinner, stat.
This wine has concentration and depth, along with some great acidity giving it a nice grip on the palate, but not at all overwhelming. It smells like rich earth and a batch of just-plucked wild berries, still smelling of the bark of the vine they grew on. You will also recognize the subtle hint of balsamic (the thick, aged stuff). If there ever was a focused casual wine for a meal with good friends and a rack of lamb smothered with garlic and mint, this is it.
Early Mountain Eluvium 2016 (A) ($35.00)
If you aren’t comfy with e-commerce this might be the time to figure that out, because this wine is only available on the site and is one of the best red wines coming out of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Heck, it’s just an amazing red wine, period. It is soft yet powerful, elegant yet structured, with balanced fruit aromas of cherries and blackberries with a waft of fresh tobacco (a sign of well-managed vineyards) for good measure; and the palate is velvety, yet deep. You’ll drink this wine and keep saying, “Really? Virginia?” Yeah, really, this wine is wonderful.
King Family Vineyards Mountain Plains Red 2016 (A) ($70.00)
Damn, this is how I like my big, full-bodied, Bordeaux-inspired, higher-alcohol, oaked red blends. That it’s all these things, and extremely balanced, is such a success. It sets into your palate like a comfy duvet with blackberry fruit and black pepper, and a tight tannic framework. This wine will cost you some pennies, but it is a great wine to see how structured Virginia wine can age (it’ll go for another 10 years, easy). It’s only available on the winery’s site, but is worth your e-commerce time online.
Castello di Cacchiano Rosso Toscana IGT 2015 (A-) ($17)
Welcome to old school Chianti, when white wine was blended in. It’s no longer allowed for DOCG, but not IGT! This wine is an exact representation of how it used to be done, while showing absolute quality (OK, there’s a skosh of Merlot, too; whatever!). The white wine (Malvasia Bianca) folds into the wine, touching the structure with light acidity and livening up this extremely soulful (meaning you sip, pause, and can’t help but reflect), and earthy wine. You’ll get the classic aromas of cherry and strap leather, and I doubt this wine is filtered because it has serious depth and tannins that are still softening. Ever made a Florentine steak? When you sip this wine, you’ll be Googling recipes.
Intrinsic Red Blend 2017 (A-) ($21.00)
It’s not often that we get a badass label with a badass wine inside but, hell, yeah! Here we are. The tagger/writer/full-sleeve tat vibe the bottle conveys comes through in the wine. Soft and fruit-forward with a juicy palate, it’s easy to sip and share. This wine is straight-up chill (actually, you could chill it. #feelme). You’ll dig this wine and keep looking at the bottle thinking, damn, this is good. Pair this with designing your next tag or tat (just get the tat) or open it for a straight-up pizza party. What a crowd pleaser.
San Pedro Sideral 2017 (A-) ($23.00)
It’s time to take a new look at Chilean wine. It’s not the bargain wine you are used to. More and more great wine from the Andes are in our market, like this one. At a quarter of the price of high-end Cali red blend, this wine has what you are looking for. Tight, dark, focused fruit, with slightly peppery notes. There is a little more acidity here than on the West Coast, too, so this wine won’t weigh down your palate, but make that meat dish you’re preparing taste like it was awarded five stars.
King Family Vineyards Meritage 2016 (A-) ($36.00)
Virginia wine is coming along so well. The only setback is that most of it is only available on e-commerce. But damn if some are worth your time and money online. This is a wonderful, full-bodied Bordeaux-style blend with depth and aromas that will call to mind blackberries, cracked black pepper, and cassis. It’s just under 14 percent alcohol, which is a perfect environment for the wine to show it’s layers as it opened in the glass.
Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount Red 2016 (A-) ($91.00)
The definition of high-end, well-structured, and impeccable California/Bordeaux style (only in grapes, not character) lies in this bottle. It’s powerful yet elegant, showing off its awesome right now. It’s not done, though, and wants to soften a bit around the edges. It has a beautiful concentrated fruit core, with great acidity teaching your palate lessons in balance. It’s crazy expensive, but if you’re ballin this is a great bottle to ball out with, in a year or two that is.
Murphy-Goode Red Blend 2015 (B+) ($12.00)
There are nine, NINE grape varieties in this wine. NINE! And somehow it works. Tons of this wine is made, and there are no real discerning characteristics, other than some dark-fruit notes, silky tannins, and a palate you want to chew on. Which is great! Because this is a big ol’ sloppy, juicy burger bottle. This bottle wants to get messy with you and wash it all down. And it’s under $15. Buy a case, fire up the grill, and get on that group text chain. It’s time for a cookout.
Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend 2018 (B+) ($12.00)
This is a solid, affordable go-to for red blend lovers. It has deep, dark fruit, and a nice heft on the palate. You’ll dig the mocha and vanilla, and the concentration. If you need a wine for a steak night with a big group, this is a great bottle. Hell, get a case.
Newton Vineyard ‘Skyside-Red Label’ Claret 2017 (B+) ($21.00)
Well, this wine is nice and smooth. It’s also a success in this price range. You will dig the soft, supple fruit, framed by a nice, prominent tannin structure. You’ll enjoy the subtle aromas of blackberry and blueberry fruit with a waft of pepper. It’s also balanced enough that it will appease the softer palates as well as the more full-bodied wine lovers.
Tenshen Red Blend 2018 (B+) ($24.00)
This wine is huge. It has 15.5 percent alcohol, which is way up there. It has dark stewed berry fruit aromas and some mocha. It has all the makings of an intrusive, intense wine that can’t pair with anything other than itself, but it isn’t. Instead, the palate is soft and smooth with well-integrated tannins and deep blackberry fruit and a mocha core. The acidity (so Central Valley) is nice and high so it won’t overwhelm you. I’m thinkin’ messy BBQ slaw and some sunshine with this wine. Enjoy!
Coquelicot Estate Mon Amour 2017 (B+) ($45.00)
This is a wine that leans heavy into the organic side of things. It’s balanced, with soft fruit and good acidity. The tannins are well integrated, with a nice light weight on the palate. But with all this there is a definite leathery soil aroma masking what would be vibrant blue and blackberry aromas. If you dig that “natural” feel in wine, this is your higher-end Cali style, and would jive with good friends and a cheese plate.
Dueling Pistols 2016 (B+) ($47.00)
This wine is soft and powerful. It has a luscious, juicy core with tannins that are so woven in you won’t feel them but know they’re there when they whisper to you in the finish. It’ll definitely pair well with some roasted chicken or steak, but damn, I dunno, that might take away from the wine’s awesome.
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards ‘Versada’ Red 2017 (B+) ($65.00)
It’s pricey, but balanced, and worth your money if you’re diggin’ on this red-blend trend we are in right now. This is a powerful wine with good acidity and softened tannins. It’s young but smooth and drinking well now. This bottle has harmony and will please multiple palates, making it a great wine to share with good friends.
Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise 2017 (B) ($15.00)
This is a party wine, hands-down. The wine does not reflect the blend, but who cares, right? The alcohol is high and will burn a bit going down, but that’s rock ’n’ roll. The label is a skull with flaming dice for eyes, like a concert poster from the ’70s, so it will look cool at a Halloween party, a rager, or paired with BBQ at a cookout.
Quinta do Vallado Tinto 2017 (B) ($20)
The alcohol here is a bit too high, and it messes with any subtle aromas that might emerge. But it’s deep, dark, and inky with some prune and blackberry fruit flavors that are somewhat balanced for a boozy wine. It won’t do for a simple Netflix and chill night, but for a big, protein-heavy meal it could work.
If you are in a wine shop or supermarket and see this wine, it works as a last-minute pickup. It has balance and dark general fruit, with good acidity and tannin. It is not going to knock anyone out of the park, but is a solid, easy-drinking red for a wine table at a party, or maybe a gift for a host.
Bootleg Sonoma County ‘Prequel’ Red 2015 (B) ($31)
The label looks like a Lichtenstein on weed after a Quentin Tarrantino film and the liquid doesn’t smell or taste like the grapes that made the wine. It has a whopping high alcohol content, and whatever subtleties the wine had have been eaten by the heat. But it has a sweet fruit core and good acidity, so, with its cool bro label, it’s a fun gift wine or a bottle to drink with goopy BBQ. But hydrate, cuz yes, that says 15.1 percent alcohol.
If you like big, oaky, high-alcohol, dark fruit, and vanilla-driven red blends from the likes of California, you’ll like this wine. It’s hot and sweet with young tannins that grip your palate and hang on well after you’ve sipped and swallowed. It requires heavy doses of protein to balance with a meal, making it a good steakhouse or steak- in-your-house wine.
J. Lohr Cuvee Pom Red Wine 2015 (B) ($47.00)
The name “Pom” is a nod to the Merlot-based wines on the right bank of the river in Bordeaux, and the wine has hints of this, but with much higher alcohol. The Bordeaux vibes come in waves of plush peppery fruit and some subtle tannic edges. But the core of the wine is all Central Cali, where the heat really ripened the hell out of these grapes, calling for a good amount of oak. The result is a bold red blend with good acidity and chocolate and plum aromas that would be a nice gift for full-bodied wine lovers.
Le Dix de Los Vascos 2015 (B) ($60.00)
This wine may need some more time in the bottle. There are indications of soft fruit and a juicy structure, but it’s still a bit rough. This may be a good bottle to lay down for a year and see where it goes. Or gift to someone who digs that stuff.
Published: April 30, 2020