Food Review: Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed Meal
Winner, Winner, Marie Callender's Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving Dinner

The Bachelor on the Cheap guide to making wine selection and food pairing easier - Reds

Wine and cheeseWine, it's the perfect beverage for a romantic dinner, a go-to for a casual get-together/party and a holiday meal is complimented by it.  Whether it's a meal for two, a small party for friends or a gathering of family, having the right wine elevates the occasion. 

And while most people follow the basic rule of thumb - red wine for beef and white wine for chicken - selecting the right wine can still be challenging.  What KIND of red for that roast beef?  Or, What KIND of white for that lemon chicken dish?  Does dessert call for a different wine?

The choices are many and can be intimidating, with the reds there's Merlot; Cabernet Sauvignon; Zinfandel; Syrah/Shiraz; Malbec; Pinot Noir; Nebbiolo; Sangiovese; Grenache and all kinds of red blends to choose from.

This post focuses on those reds...

That's what this guide is for, to help you with food pairings, what is sweet, what is dry and getting a good wine for under $15 a bottle.  That's the Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly thing to do, get something nice, without paying too much for it.

Bogle MerlotMerlot This is one of the more popular reds and if you're looking for a wine to go with a good steak, Merlot might be for you.  A Merlot is a hearty wine that pairs well with grilled steaks, roast beef, braised lamb and tomato based pastas. If eating lighter fare, a Merlot goes well with bold flavored cheeses, such as a good sharp cheddar, gouda, or a blue cheese such as Gorgonzola.  For dessert lovers, a nice Merlot pairs well with chocolate.  And for those that like a wine on the dryer side, it's a good wine to drink by itself as well. A traditional Merlot is a medium bodied, full flavored red wine the carries fruity notes such as strawberries, raspberries, plum and/or dark cherry.  Serve Merlot slightly chilled at 60 - 65 degrees (refrigerate for about 15 - 20 minutes before serving).  If you don't finish the bottle, cork it and refrigerate, it's good for up to 4 days.  Just be sure to pull the bottle and let it come up in temp (a refrigerator chills to about 41 degrees) a bit before serving to appreciate the full flavor profile.  If you haven't finished the bottle by the four day mark, cook with it.

Bachelor on the Cheap Recomendation:  Bogle Merlot - $9.99.  A California wine with notes of plum and dark cherry.

Noble Vines 337Cabernet Sauvignon:  THE most popular red out there, yes, even more popular than Merlot and why you see Cabernet Sauvignon selections typically outnumber Merlots 2 - 1 at your local liquor store. Classically paired with lamb dishes, Cabernet Sauvignon is also excellent with venison, a hearty meatball and spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce dinner, steaks on the grill, or pub style burgers.  If you're not into the meat thing, you can appreciate a glass of cab with Portabello mushrooms, braised cabbage or roasted root vegetables.  In pairing with cheese, think sharp cheddar, Gruyere or a baked Camembert.  TIP:  The more full-bodied the wine is - and a Cabernet Sauvignon falls into this category - the stronger the cheese you can pair with it. For dessert, stick with bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate options.  The flavor profile of Cabernet Sauvignon are notes of black cherry, blackberry, black currant, perhaps some veggie notes like green bell pepper and there can be hints of spice and vanilla from the aging in oak barrels.  A cab is higher in acid and has more tannins than a Merlot and that's part of the appeal to cabs, they age well.  Serve Cabernet Sauvignon slightly chilled, at 60 - 65 degrees (refrigerate for about 15 - 20 minutes before serving). And you've heard the phrase, "Let the wine breathe?"  Decanting serves this wine well (that means pour the wine out of the bottle and into a decanter for those of you who live in Haysville).  Do this about 30 minutes prior to serving, as decanting helps to soften the strong tannins. 

Bachelor on the Cheap Recomendation:  Noble Vines 337 - $10.99.  Here's the description from the Noble Vines website:  This dark, dense, flavorful Cabernet Sauvignon fills the senses with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and peppercorn. Smooth tannins and balanced acidity allow the flavors of black fruit compote, clove and spice, to come through with a lingering finish.

Cline ZifandelZinfandel:  Not to be confused with White Zinfandel, that popular box wine that wine snobs frown upon, Zinfandel is a red wine.  Having moderate tannins and higher alcohol levels ranging from 14 - 17 percent, zinfandel has a bold taste.  The flavor profile often carries fruity, almost 'jammy' notes such as blueberry, cherry, plum and cranberry, followed by black pepper and spice, perhaps even a tobacco-like smoky finish.  This puts Zinfandel on the sweeter side of red wines so pairing with lightly spiced barbecue or curry dishes is a good move.  Think pork dishes with this wine, ham, pulled pork if you're going barbecue and just about any dish that includes bacon.  Veal is also a good pairing, as is turkey so no, that 'only white wine with bird' rule is not an absolute.  When it comes to cheeses, pair with Feta, Havarti, Parmesan or a milder blue cheese like Gorgonzola.   With dessert, remember that your wine needs to be as sweet or sweeter than what is being served.  Zinfandel is excellent with cheesecakes made with fruit or have fruity sauces, fruit pies, tarts and carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting.  Serve Zinfandel like you would other red wines, slightly below room temperature, 60 - 65 degrees, putting the bottle in the fridge about 30 minutes prior to serving.

Bachelor on the Cheap Recomendation: Cline Old Vine Lodi Zinfindel - $10.99.   From the winemaker website:  Cline Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel is a challenging and rewarding wine to make. Amazing old vine fruit, detailed selection criteria and master blending show in the final wine. A wide array of jammy strawberry and plum aromas followed by black cherry, strawberry and vanilla flavors lead to a smooth and lengthy finish

Yellow-tail-ShirazSyrah a.k.a. Shiraz:  Two spellings for the same grape?  What the heck?  This one can be a bit confusing for new wine drinkers.   According to Wine Folly, the Syrah grape originated in the legendary wine-producing area of the Rhone Valley in France, way, way back.  Eventually, the grape was taken to Australia and became the most-planted grape in that country.  But they don't call it Syrah there, it's called Shiraz instead.   The grape has since become quite popular and is now being grown around the world.  Basically put, it's the same grape, Syrah is the French way to spell it, Shiraz is the English way.  Enough on the grape history lesson.  Syrah/Shiraz tends to be on the drier side, but not as dry as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Syrahs have fruity notes of black cherry, blackberry and plum along with spice notes such as clove and licorice.  In the finish there are hints of espresso and dark chocolate.  With above average alcohol levels and moderate tannins, this fruity/spicy wine pairs well with barbecue and it really doesn't what kind of meat.  Pork ribs, beef ribs, bbq chicken and just about any grilled fare from hamburgers to a leg of lamb go nicely with Syrah.  When it comes to cheeses, Syrah pairs well with blue cheeses and salty ones such as pecorino or halloumi.   Do NOT drink Syrah with seafood or salads and while it pairs nicely with dark chocolate, you might want to find another wine to drink with any other kind of dessert.  Serve Syrah with a slight chill, 60 - 65 degrees, not quite room temperature.  With its higher alcohol content, if not slightly chilled, the flavors will be dulled.  Put in your fridge for about 30 minutes before serving.

Bachelor on the Cheap Recomendation: Yellow Tail Shiraz- $8.99.   Here's the description:  Ripe Cherries and strawberries, spice, and vanilla aromas. Yellow Tail Shiraz is bold and well balanced, with earthy tones and lingering fruit on the tongue.

Alamos MalbecMalbec:  According to Wine Folly, Malbec has been a popular blending grape in France for years, but thanks to Argentina, Malbec has become popular in it's own right.   This is a very fruity wine with a deep purple color and full body.  Carrying notes of blackberry, black plum, and black cherry, the wine also has savory notes such as black pepper, spice, sweet tobacco and cocoa.  Typically higher in alcohol content than other wines it also has a short finish, to mean it doesn't stay on your tongue long.   Because of that short finish, Malbec pairs well with leaner meats like a flank steak rather than a ribeye.  Pork loin dishes are a nice pairing as is poultry with dark meat and leaner cuts of lamb.  Game meats such as bison, venison and ostrich are also good.   For folks seeking lighter fare, Malbec pairs well with goat and blue cheeses.  Mushrooms are excellent with this wine as are stuffed peppers.  For dessert, think chocolate desserts and/or salty caramel.  Serve Malbec in a wide bodied glass to take full advantage of the fruity aromas.   And like other red wines, serve it slightly chilled, at 60 - 65 degrees (refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving). And you've heard the phrase, "Let the wine breathe?" Malbec benefits from decanting (that means pour the wine out of the bottle and into a decanter for those of you who live in Haysville). Go with a Malbec made in Argentina, that's where the best ones come from.

Bachelor on the Cheap Recomendation: Alamos Malbec - $10.99.  Here's the description:  Alamos Malbec captures the spirit and terroir of Argentina’s signature variety. Grown at high-level altitudes, our Malbec offers layers of dark cherry and blackberry with a velvety mouthfeel. This complex red wine pairs beautifully with a wide range of cuisine and is recognized for its pronounced freshness.

Bread-Butter-Pinot-NoirPinot Noir:  First cultivated in Burgundy, France, the Pinot Noir grape is now grown all over the world.  The appeal of Pinot Noir is how versatile it is with food pairings, it's a red that can go with just about anything.  Think about that next date, you're at a quaint restaurant, a candlelit table for two...   You're having steak, your date is having salmon, what kind of wine can you share?  Get a bottle of Pinot Noir!  With flavors of cherry, plum, spice, and some earthy notes, this food friendly wine has soft tannins and a bright acidity.  It's a lighter bodied red wine with a smooth finish.  Pinot Noir is an excellent choice for a charcuterie board that includes ham, goat cheese and olives.  And in thinking of the diversity of a charcuterie board and all those great options, think pizza and all the great topping options...  Yes, pizza and Pinot Noir is a great match!  Pot Roast, roast turkey, roast chicken, glazed ham, rack of lamb, the aforementioned steak and salmon, they're all complimented by a glass (or two) of Pinot Noir.  This wine is also excellent with mushroom anything, asparagus and roasted root vegetables.  It pairs well with hummus (w/roasted red pepper is a personal favorite), gnocchi, ravioli, risotto and here's a really good one, spinach & artichoke dip.    For dessert, think chocolate, decadent brownies, chocolate covered strawberries or a chocolate mousse.  And like other red wines, serve it slightly chilled, at 60 - 65 degrees (refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving).

Bachelor on the Cheap Recomendation: Bread & Butter Pinot Noir - $14.99.  Here's the description:  Bread & Butter Pinot Noir is all about that juicy red fruit. Think cherries and raspberries with a touch of cassis. Delicate hints of cedar, smoke, and bay leaf cut the sweetness of the fruit, creating a nicely balanced bouquet. That luscious fruit bouquet continues onto the palate, where it’s joined by soft flavors of oak and savory notes. With a long and beautifully smooth finish, this Pinot Noir will melt in your mouth.

Nebbiolo:  Nebbiolo grapes are grown in many parts of the world, but the vast majority are grown in Northern Italy.  Nebbiolo wines are also produced in California, Argentina and Australia.  Having high tannins and acidity, it pairs well with fatty, creamy dishes with the acidity cutting through the rich flavors and cleansing the palate.  Like Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo is a food friendly wine and matches up with a number of main dishes and sides.  Look for tasting notes of cherry, raspberry, rose, star anise and tobacco.  This is a medium to full bodied wine that will compliment just about any tomato based pasta dish you can think of, especially a good ragu or bolognese and going Italian is your best bet.   When it comes to a non pasta meat dish, think fattier meats but nothing too gamey, perhaps a slow roasted pork or beef roast.  When it comes to cheeses, don't go too funky. Creamy cheeses like brie and goat are excellent paired with Nebbiolo, as are hard cheeses such as Parmigiana Reggiano or Pecorino.  For you veggie lovers out there, mushroom anything!  Roasted root vegetables are great and you can get away with loading them up with a lot of olive oil and/or butter.  A spicy Asian veggie stir fry is good as well.  For dessert, don't go there.  Nebbiolo is not a good match with anything sweet.  And like other red wines, serve it slightly chilled, at 60 - 65 degrees, refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving but decanter it first, it will benefit from breathing.

Kirkland BaroloBachelor on the Cheap Recomendation: Kirkland Signature Borolo - $19.99. I know I prefaced this with recommending good wines for $15 or less, but finding a good Nebbiolo for under $20.... Challenging!  What Costco produces with their Kirkland Signature brand hails from Piedmont, Italy, THE place on the planet for the top producers of Nebbiolo.  Here's the description from the bottle:  Rich garnet red in color with notes of vanilla and rose petal on the nose, this full-bodied wine delivers notes of black currant and licorice on the palate. Great for long-term aging.  14% alcohol.

Caparzo SangioveseSangiovese:  Sangiovese is a dry, acidic wine that is known as a "chameleon" grape, to mean that different wines using this grape can be notably different. The vast majority of Sangiovese is produced in the central region of Tuscany, Italy.   Look for tasting notes of cherry and herbal, earthy tones.  Because it's so acidic, stick to savory foods, this is a good dinner wine.  Pairing well with just about anything tomato based, Sangiovese also matches up nicely with spicy dishes.  Consider pairing it with meat dishes featuring a savory cherry sauce to take advantage of the cherry notes in the wine - think grilled pork loin.  Load up your charcuterie board with salami, prosciutto, calabrese and pecorino cheese.  When it comes to non-meat dishes, serve this wine alongside hearty bean soups or gnocchi in a brown butter and herb sauce.  Pass on this wine when it comes to sweets however, NOT a good match.  Serve it slightly chilled, at 60 - 65 degrees, refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving. 

Bachelor on the Cheap Recomendation: Caparzo Sangiovese - $9.99.   This wine is from Italy, Tuscany region, Toscano sub-region.  Best with red meat, pasta with meat sauces, bean and barley soups.  Winemaker notes:  Intense ruby color. Fruity, spicy aromas. The palate is full, fruity, persistent.

Grenache:  Originally cultivated in Spain, the Grenache grape is now common in wine valleys around the world.  The Grenache is sold as a single varietal but it's most popular by producers as a blending grape due to its medium to low acidity, medium tannins and high alcohol.   This wine has fruity notes of black cherry, raspberry and strawberry balanced with some spice such as star anise, cinnamon and black pepper.  Grenache pairs really well with slow cooked meats, hearty stews and chili.  For meatless options think oven baked pasta dishes with cheese and veggies to include mushrooms, bell peppers, eggplant and zucchini.  The cheeses you'll want on your charcuterie board should include pepper jack, brie and mild cheddar.  For dessert be sure to select a sweet Grenache (the longer its aged, the drier it gets), this is a good red wine for a classic pairing with chocolate, pretty much chocolate anything.  Serve it slightly chilled, at 60 - 65 degrees, refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving and after popping the cork, let it breathe for about 10 minutes. 

Vega-Sindoa-El-Chaparral-GrenacheBachelor on the Cheap Recomendation:  Vega Sindoa El Chaparral Grenache - $15.  Hailing from Spain, this is a critically acclaimed wine by the Wine Advocate.  Winemaker notes:  Bright red. Suave raspberry and cherry preserve aromas are compelling and sexy. Musky herbal and floral qualities add complexity to the nose but fade into the red berry aromas, which continue on the palate.persistent.

Red wine selection and food pairing made easy and you can get a really nice bottle for $15 or less.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Enjoy this post?

If you appreciate this wine guide and want to support more great food, product, service review content, recipes and other great consumer content on to include cost comparisons, recalls, safety alerts and more, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Just $5 or $10 goes a long way. Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)