Wine Varietal Glossary
What is a Varietal? – Varietal refers to the type of grape that is used in making wine.
New World wines are generally labeled by varietal, where Old World wines are labeled by region (ie. A Bordeaux wines refers to a wine made in the Bordeaux region of France. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are two varietals grown in Bordeaux). Please see below for a list of common wine varietals as provided by The California Wine Club:
Barbera – Barbera is a red wine grape found primarily in Italy’s Piedmont region. It produces hearty red wines with deep ruby colors, full body and low tannin levels.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine known for its depth of flavor, aroma and ability to age (present by the wine’s noticeable tannins). It is full-bodied and intense, with cherry- currant and sometimes herbal flavors.
Champagne/Sparkling Wine – These wines are made effervescent by a secondary fermentation in the wine-making process. Champagnes and sparkling wines range in style from very dry (Natural), dry (brut) and slightly sweet (extra Dry) to sweet (sec and Demi-Sec). Many sparkling wines are also identified as Blanc de Blancs (wines made from white grapes) or Blanc de Noirs (wines produced from red grapes). *Champagne is only called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France.
Chardonnay – One of the world’s most popular wines, Chardonnay is a white wine originating from Burgundy. Flavors range from clean and crisp with a hint of varietal flavor to rich and complex, vanilla, butter and oak-aged wines. Chardonnay typically balances fruit, acidity and texture.
Chenin Blanc – Chenin Blanc is a white wine with fresh, delicate floral characteristics. It grows well in warmer climates and produces light, well- balanced wines ranging from dry to off-dry (slightly sweet) styles.
Dolcetto – This red wine grape is found almost exclusively in Italy’s Piedmont region. It produces light and fruity wine wine.
Fume Blanc – Invented by Robert Mondavi in 1970, Fume Blanc is a Sauvignon Blanc that has been fermented in oak.
Gewurztraminer – Gewurztraminer is a white German wine that produces distinctive wines rich in spicy aromas and full flavors, ranging from dry to sweet. This varietal is a popular choice for Asian dishes.
Merlot – Merlot is a red wine with medium to full body with black cherry and herbal flavors. Merlot is typically smooth, soft and mellow.
Mourvedre – This warm-weather, red wine grape is common in Southern France’s Rhone Valley. Rich in color with earthy aromas, often blended with Syrah.
Petite Sirah – Petite Sirahs are inky red wines with firm, robust tannic tastes, often with peppery flavors. Petite Sirahs may complement meals with rich meats.
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) – The low acidity of this white grape helps produce rich, lightly perfumed wines that are often more colorful than other whites.
Pinot Noir – Pinot Noir is the world famous grape from Burgundy and more recently California and the Pacific North West. A light to medium-body wine, pegged as one of the most difficult to grow and make. Delicate and smooth with rich complexity, Pinot Noir is a versatile dinner companion.
Riesling – Riesling is the classic white wine grape from Germany and known for their floral perfume. Depending on where they’re made, they can be crisp and bone-dry, full-bodied and spicy or luscious and sweet.
Roses (Blush Wines) – Roses, also called blush wines, are light pink wines made from several red wine grapes. They get their color from a very short period of contact with the grape skins during the wine-making process. Roses are light, usually somewhat sweet and best served well-chilled.
Sangiovese – Sangiovese is best known as the Italian red wine, Chianti. Hearty and dray it often displays a distinctively smooth texture with spice, raspberry and licorice flavors.
Sauvignon Blanc – Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine best known for its grassy, herbal flavors and is a popular choice for shellfish or as a refreshing alternative to Chardonnay.
Syrah (Shiraz) – Syrah can produce giant red wines with strong tannins and complex combinations of flavors including berry, plum and smoke. It’s known as Shiraz mainly in Australia and South Africa.
Viognier – Viognier is a rare white grape growing in popularity for its uniqueness. It is an aromatic variety typically displaying peach, apricot and sometimes spicy flavors.
Zinfandel – Zinfandel is a medium to full-bodied red wine with and berry or spicy, peppery flavors. Great with pizza and tangy barbecue sauce.