Wine Varietals 2017-07-25T07:57:46+00:00

          VARIETAL GLOSSARY

Varietal wine is produced from a dominant or single variety of grape, which is ordinarily provided on the label. 75% of the stated grape variety must be present in order for the wine to be varietally labeled, with the exception of the European Union, where 85% is acceptable. Varietal wines that are more commonly known are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot, however, there are many, many others. Here are just some of them:

Agiorgitiko (Greek for St. George’s)—A red wine of Greek origin, the best of which ages well with moderate to low acidity, deep ruby color, aromas of ripe red fruit and sweet, spicy flavors.

Airén—A mild, white fruity wine with floral overtones that originated in Spain. By acreage, it is also the most planted varietal grape in the world.

Albalonga—A white German wine that can be either a dry table wine with floral aromas, or, if produced from a late harvest, it can have tropical and dried fruit flavors with relatively high acidity that allows it to age well.

Albariño (AKA Alvarinho in Portugal)—From Spain’s Galicia regions, this white wine has characteristics of both a Riesling and Viognier: light and fruity with notes of peach and apricot.

Aligoté—A dry white Burgundy wine of French origins with notes of lemon and apples. Traditionally mixed with crème de cassis to make kir.

Auxerrois (AKA Pinot Auxerrois, Auxerrois Blanc)—A full-bodied white wine from the Alsace region of France, typically used as a blender for still and sparkling wines.

Barbera—A strongly flavored red wine from the Piemonte region of Italy, usually used as a blender.

Blaufränkisch (AKA Lemberger)—An earthy, full-bodied Austrian red wine with overtones of spice and ripe berries, depending on the age.

Brachetto—Light-bodied, highly aromatic still or fizzy dessert wines with notes of strawberries, from the Piemonte region of Italy.

Cabernet Franc—A bright, pale red wine with medium body and soft, rich overtones. From France’s Anjou and Tourane regions, Cabernet Franc is also used as a blender in Bordeaux wines, and with Cabernet Sauvignon in Médoc blends, adding a peppery perfume to both. As a varietal wine, its aromas can include those of tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis and violets.

Cabernet Sauvignon—A full-bodied red wine originally from France. Its flavor and aroma can range from those of ripe berries to earthy depending on when the grape is harvested and how long the vintage is aged.

Carignan—A full-bodied, deep red, astringent wine high in tannins and acid. Originally from France, and Spain, where it is known as Cariñena, it is used primarily as a blender.

Carménère—Originally from France and mostly used as a blender, this varietal red wine has a cherry-like, fruity flavor with medium body and smoky, spicy, earthy overtones, sometimes with notes of dark chocolate. Best to drink when it is young.

Catawba—A medium to full-bodied, earthy, off-dry to dry rosé wine made from the North American red grape of the same name.

Chambourcin—A deep red, aromatic wine that can be either dry or semi-sweet. Pairs well with chocolate .

Chardonnay—A popular white Burgundy with origins in France, used in champagne and as a blender, as well as enjoyed by itself. Depending on the wine making style, flavors can range from lean, crisply mineral to oaky or tropical fruit. In cool climates, Chardonnay tends to be medium to light bodied with noticeable acidity and flavor notes of green plum, apple and pear. In warmer climates the flavors become more citrus, peach and melon while in very warm locations more fig and tropical fruit notes such as banana and mango come out. Wines that have gone through Malolactic fermentation tend to have softer acidity and fruit flavors with a buttery mouthfeel and hazelnut notes.

Chasselas (AKA Gutedel)—A dry, fruity white wine with lots of body, probably originally from Switzerland.

Chenin Blanc—A white wine with fresh, delicate floral characteristics. The grape grows well in warmer climates and produces light, well-balanced wines ranging from dry to off-dry (slightly sweet) styles.

Cinsaut or Cinsault—A soft, light red wine with a bouquet reminiscent of strawberries, it is used as a blender with grapes such as Grenache and Carignan. The grape is probably from southern France, but grows well in dry, arid regions worldwide.

Colombard (AKA French Colombard, Columbar)—Originally from southern France and known as “French Colombard” in the U.S., this is a dry to sweet, fruity white wine used for Cognac and Armagnac brandies. The grape grows well in dry, arid regions worldwide.

Corvina or Cassabria—A light to medium body, somewhat tart red wine with a mild fruity flavor with hints of almond, also used as a blender to make the light red Italian regional wines, Bardolino and Valpolicella. The grape is grown primarily in the Veneto region of northeast Italy and elsewhere in similar climates.

Dolcetto—This red wine grape is found almost exclusively in Italy’s Piemonte region. It produces light and fruity wine.

Dornfelder—An earthy red from the Rheinpfalz region of Germany. The best of these wines have a velvety texture with fruit and floral overtones, sometimes with a hint of sweetness.

Dunkelfelder—A deep, dark red, dry German varietal with good acidity, body and neutral to fruity flavors, with hints of blackberries, cherries, and caramel. It is often used for blends, as well as enjoyed by itself.

Ehrenfelser—A white wine originally from Germany, similar to a Riesling. Ehrenfelser ranges from off-dry to dry with fruity notes. It is also used to produce Ice Wine. The grape grows well in regions with short growing seasons.

 

Fume Blanc – Invented by Robert Mondavi in 1970, Fume Blanc is a Sauvignon Blanc that has been fermented in oak.

Gamay—A light, fruity red wine originally from France’s Beaujolais region. Gamay has notes of raspberry and the fresh-peppery nose of Cabernet Franc. The grape grows well in Mediterranean type climates worldwide.

Gewürztraminer—Gewürztraminer is a distinct, white German wine rich in spicy aromas and full flavors, ranging from dry to sweet. This varietal wine is a popular choice for Asian dishes.

Graciano—A deep red wine with concentrated, often spicy flavors and the aroma of licorice. Originally from the Rioja and Navarra regions of Spain, the grape also grows well in other warm, arid climates.

Grenache/Garnacha—A popular red wine with high alcohol content used primarily as a blender. From Spain, the grape is also grown in other warm, arid regions. As a varietal wine, it has a soft, spicy, berry-like flavor.

Grenache blanc—A white wine from Côtes-du-Rhône with a high alcohol content and notes of citrus and/or herbs. Originally from Spain, the plant is also grown in other warm, arid regions.

Grüner Veltliner—A white citrusy wine that can range from light and dry, to full-bodied. The grape is from Austria, but is grown elsewhere in similar climates.

Huxelrebe—A German white wine used primarily in aperitif or dessert wines. The grape is grown mostly in Germany’s wine region.

 

Ives Noir (AKA Bordô)—A rare red wine from grapes that originated in the U.S. Used as both a blending and a varietal, the wine can range from sweet to dry, to a semi-sweet blush, and sweet fortified wines. The grape is highly susceptible to air pollution, ozone damage and sulfur-based sprays used to combat powdery and downy mildew, so now grown in only a few locations.

 

Jacquère—A white, lightly scented, crisp, neutral dry white wine made from grapes grown primarily in the Savoy region of France. Pairs wonderfully with cheese fondue, a dish which is also from the same region.

Kerner—A soft, spicy golden or yellow white wine with good body and aromas of mixed white fruits, with hints of apple, grapefruit and mango. It is produced from an unusual crossing of Riesling (white) with Trollinger (red) grape plants from Germany, where the grape is primarily grown.

Macabeo (AKA Viura or Macabeu)—A mild white wine of Spanish origin that is best imbibed when it is young. Also used as a blender because of its ability to withstand oxidation. The grape is grown only in a few other places, where the climate is warm and arid.

Malbec— A dark, intense, full-bodied wine with juicy fruit notes and violet aromas. It is commonly used in blends to make Bordeaux and Claret wines, but some producers are now making varietal Malbec wines. The grape is grown in and around Cahors, France, from whence it originated, as well as in other areas of the world with similar climates.

Malmsey—A sweet, fortified wine from Portugal, made in the Madeira Islands.

Malvasia—A varietal wine, which can be white, or red, depending on where it is grown, and full-bodied and soft when young, and a nutty aroma when aged. The red varieties of Malvasia grapes can make pinkish or light red, rich wines with chocolate notes, while white Malvasia wines have more fruity notes. Originally from Greece, the grape is now grown worldwide in warm, arid regions.

Maréchal Foch—Red wines that can range from light Beaujolais-types, to dark, highly extracted and expensive wines from older plantings that have recently gained a cult following. The grape, a French hybrid, is grown primarily in the Eastern U.S. Marechal Foch wines tend to have strong acidity and aromas of black fruit or toasted wheat, mocha, fresh coffee, bitter chocolate, vanilla bean, and even musk.

Marsanne—A deeply colored white wine with a rich, nutty flavor and hints of spice and pears. Originally from the Rhône region of France, where it is still grown, it is also grown in other parts of the world with similar climate.

Melon de Bourgogne (AKA Melon or Muscadet)—A light, dry, crisp white wine that can sometimes leave a prickly sensation in the mouth, due to leftover carbon dioxide from the bottling process. Pairs wonderfully with seafood, especially shellfish. From the Burgundy region of France, the grape is now grown in other areas of the world with similar climate.

Merlot—Merlot is a red wine with medium to full body with black cherry and herbal flavors. Merlot is typically smooth, soft and mellow. Originally from France, the grape is now grown worldwide.

Montepulciano—A soft, deeply colored, plummy wine that improves with age. The grape is originally from Italy, where it is primarily grown.

Mourvèdre (AKA Mataró or Monastrell)—Excellent tannic wines that can be high in alcohol, with earthy notes or soft, fruity flavors, depending on where they are produced, and how long they are aged. The grape is from Spain, Rhône and Provençal, and is also grown in other dry, regions of the world.

Müller-Thurgau (AKA Rivaner)—A delicate, aromatic, dry white wine with a flowery bouquet and less acidity than a Riesling, sometimes with a hint of Muscat flavor. Müller-Thurgau is best enjoyed while it is fresh and young. Dryer versions are sometimes called Rivaner. Produced from a crossing of Riesling and Madeleine Royale plants, the grape is now grown worldwide.

Muscadine—A dry, red table wine, or with added sugar, a dessert wine. Wines and ports have been made from this wild grape of the Southern U.S. since the 16th century. Grows well in warm, humid climates.

Muscat (AKA Moscato)—A red or white wine that can range from a table wine to sparkling wine to dessert and fortified wines, to brandies and liqueurs. The Muscat grape is one of the first domesticated grapes. With a couple hundred varieties, it is grown around the world.

Nebbiolo—Lightly colored red wines, tannic when young with floral overtones, and brick-orange with aromas and flavors of flowers, wild herbs and berries among others, when aged. The grapes are from the Piemonte region of Italy, and now grown with varying degrees of success in other parts of the world.

Negroamaro—A deep red wine that is very rustic in character, with a perfume aroma and earthy bitterness. The grape is from Italy and also grows in other dry, arid regions.

Norton—A rich, dry inky-hued red wine. The grape from which it is made, an American varietal from Virginia, once made the world-famous Monticello clarets of the 19th century, that all but disappeared during Prohibition. Today, many U.S. wineries are re-cultivating and producing wines from Norton grapes.

Ojaleshi—A light-bodied, usually semi-sweet dark wine with notes of raspberry, red currant, and white pepper, from the Georgian Republic.

Ortega—A very sweet white wine with a fruity aroma. The grape from which it is made is a cross between Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe varietals. From Germany, the grape is also grown in cooler climates in other parts of the world.

Parellada—A light, white, low alcohol varietal wine, with a delicate floral bouquet, usually used as a blender. The grape is from Spain, where it is primarily grown, and is one of three traditional varieties used to produce the sparkling wine, Cava.

Pedro Ximénez (AKA Pedro Jimenez)—A light, white, sweet varietal wine. From southern Spain, the grape is more commonly used to make a dark, sweet dessert sherry and other dessert wines. Also grows in other dry, arid regions of the world.

Petite Verdot—A red wine, that, when young can have aromas of banana and pencil shavings. As it matures, notes of violet and leather develop. Used as a blender to add tannin, color an flavoring. From the Bordeaux region of France, the grape is also grown in other dry, arid regions of the world, where some producers make massive, full-bodied varietal wines that can age well for several years.

Petite Sirah (AKA Durif)—A tannic red wine with a spicy, plummy flavor, originally from France. The grape grows well in dry, arid regions worldwide..

Pinot Blanc—A white, full-bodied, spicy, fruity wine with floral overtones, it can be dry or sweet depending on where the grape is grown. From Alsace, the plant is also grown in other regions with dry, arid climates.

Pinot Gris—Depending on where this grape is grown and the wine making style, Pinot Gris varietals can vary from dry to sweet, light to full bodied, and spicy with a rich, floral bouquet and aromas of fruit. Although the grape is white, the color of its wines can range from golden to copper and even light pink. Originally from the Burgundy of France, the plant is now grown worldwide.

Pinot Noir—A popular red wine that can be light to medium body with a berry-like aroma, and is also used for Champagne. From the Burgundy region of France, the plant is now grown worldwide.

Pinot Meunier—A white or red wine that, depending on where grown and the wine making style, can range from dry to sweet, with notes of ripe berries. Possibly from France and also used for Champagne and sparkling wines, the grape is now grown worldwide.

Pinotage—Dark red varietal wines with smoky, earthy flavors, sometimes with notes of tropical fruit and bananas. The grape is South African in origin and also grown in other dry, arid regions of the world.

Riesling—White, sweet wines that, when young, are fruity and aromatic with a crisp taste, when aged, take on more complex flavors and aromas. From Germany and France, the grape is now grown in most wine regions of the world.

Roter Veltliner—A rare, elegant, aromatic white wine varietal that can improve with age. From Austria, where the grape is also grown.

Roussane—White, intensely aromatic wines sometimes with notes of herbs, flowers and fruit, when young, and that become nutty, deep and complex after the wine ages. The wine is best when drunk when it is young (3-4 years) or aged (7-8 years). From France, the grape is also grown in other dry, arid areas of the world.

Sangiovese—Although the grape of this red wine is originally from Italy, it is now grown worldwide and so the character of the wine varies widely. It can have bittersweet notes of cherry, violets and tea or herbs, or bright fruit and spice flavors, depending on the region in which the grape is grown, and wine making style. Can age well, but best imbibed in its youth.

St. Laurent—A high quality, dark, full-bodied, fruity red wine with cherry notes. Ages well. From Austria, the grape is also grown in other areas with similar climate.

Saperavi—A distinctive semi-sweet to dry red wine with a pleasant astringency that can age well (up to 50 years!). Originally from the Georgian Republic, the grape is now grown worldwide in regions with similar climate.

Sauvignon Blanc—A crisp, dry to semi-sweet white wine. Depending on where the grape is grown, the wine flavors can range from grassy to sweet and tropical. From France, the grape now also grows in other dry, arid regions of the world.

Sauvignon Vert (AKA Sauvignonasse and Friulano)—Depending on the area in which this white wine is produced, it can be medium to full-bodied, with floral aromas and delicate fruit flavors, such as green apples, when young. From Italy, the grape is now grown in other dry, arid regions of the world.

Scheurebe—Dry to sweet white wines with aromas of blackcurrant and grapefruit, or, if very well made, blood grape and honey. From Germany, the grape is also grown in other parts of the world with similar climates.

Scuppernong—A dry red table wine made from the Scuppernong grape, a wild grape of the Muscadine family native to the Southern U.S.

Sémillon—A dry to sweet wine, depending on where the grape is grown and wine making style, the finest of which is from France, whence the plant originates, and other areas of the world with similar climates. Sémillon’s aromas and flavors can range from burnt toast to honey in aged wines, to citrus or green apple in young wines.

Siegerrebe—A semi-dry white wine with an intense aroma similar to that of Muscat and flavor similar to Gewürztraminer. From Germany, the grape is also grown in other parts of the world that have similar climates.

Syrah (AKA Shiraz)—A flavorful, full-bodied red wine. Depending on where the grape is grown, the aroma can range from floral to dark, ripe berries, chocolate, espresso and black pepper. When bottle-aged, earthy notes such as leather and truffle become evident. From France, the grape is also grown in other dry, arid regions of the world.

Silvaner (AKA Sylvaner)—A semi-dry, full-bodied, earthy white wine produced from an ancient grape variety with origins in Central Europe. The grape is also grown in other parts of the world with similar climates.

Tempranillo—A rich, full-bodied ruby red wine, which can have aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herbs. From Spain, the grape is now grown worldwide in other dry, arid regions.

Touriga Nacional—An intense, aromatic, high tannin red wine with the aroma of violets and flavor notes of ripe black or blue berries, cocoa and spices. The grape is from Portugal, where it is still grown, and is the “backbone” of many of their blends.

Trebbiano (AKA Ugni Blanc)—As a white varietal wine, it can be fresh and fruity, but best drunk when it is young. From Italy, the grape is also grown in other dry, arid regions of the world and used primarily as a blender.

 

Vidal Blanc—Fruity, full-bodied white still wines, or sweet dessert or ice wines, depending on the wine-making style. The grape is a French-American grape hybrid bred for cold climates and so grows best in cooler regions of the world.

Viognier—A dry to sweet, lush, full-bodied white wine with a sweet, floral aroma and can include notes of peach, pears, violets and minerality. Best enjoyed when the wine is young. The grape variety is ancient, originally from Croatia and France, and now grown worldwide.

Welschriesling—Depending on where this ancient grape variety is grown, and wine making style, this white wine can be dry to sweet, dessert or sparkling, sometimes with notes of tropical fruit, apples or lemons. Of uncertain origins, the plant is grown in cooler regions of the world.

 

Xarello—A full-bodied white wine, highly aromatic and strongly flavored that can have notes of citrus, green apple or pear. From Spain, where the grape is still grown, it is one of several varietals blended to make the sparkling wine, Cava.

Zinfandel (AKA Primitivo)—A popular red (or white) wine that can vary vastly in color, flavor and aroma, depending on where the grape is grown, and the wine making style. Cooler climate grapes produce Zinfandels with red berry fruit flavors, while warm climate grapes produce Zinfandels wiht notes of blackberries, licorice or pepper. From Croatia, the grape now grows in other areas of the world with similar climates.

Zweigelt—A soft red wine, which, if aged well, is full-bodied with notes of dark cherries. From Austria, where the grape is still grown.

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