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.

Be Sociable, Share!

Contact Us

Denver Wine Meetup is Denver's largest wine group.

Denver Wine Scene

Check out the links for some of the best wine scene in Denver.