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What is a varietal?

27th April 2017 in Buying Guides
What is a varietal?

Newcomers to fine wine tasting often report that the labelling of the wine can be confusing; with different terms making it hard to understand a wine’s characteristics. One of the expressions often used about is ‘varietal’.

Wines are described as varietal or blended. A blended wine is made from a mixture of grape varieties. A varietal wine, on the other hand, has to be made from at least 85% of one grape (75% in the USA). The name of that grape will be on the label.

History of wine varietals

The term first came into general use in California following Prohibition. It allowed consumers to gain precise information about the grapes used to make the wine they were purchasing. This system proved popular and quickly spread to other New World Wines. It has also become common to use it for European wines, although typically they will also include further information on the region and even the vineyard where the grapes were grown.

Several factors can influence the flavour of wine varietals, so the same varietal will not always taste the same. The growing conditions, the method the winemaker has used in the production and the storage process can all affect the flavour, which is part of what makes wine tasting such a varied experience. However, each grape has its own varietal characteristics and a wine that displays the typical flavours and aromas of the named grape is often described as being ‘varietally true’.

Some common wine varietals

There is a vast range of wine varietals for the newcomer to connoisseur to discover. Some of those most commonly found are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – a full-bodied red wine with intense fruity flavours
  • Champagne – the most famous sparkling wine that must come from the Champagne region; south west of France.
  • Chardonnay – a white wine that ranges from clean and crisp to full of complex flavours
  • Merlot – a smooth, mellow red wine
  • Pinot Gris – a lightly perfumed white wine
  • Pinot Noir - a delicate, smooth red wine
  • Sauvignon Blanc – a refreshing, herbal flavoured white wine
  • Zinfandel – a red wine with a spicy flavour

Selecting a good varietal

As anyone who has spent time browsing in a supermarket knows, there is a vast range of price and quality involved in wines of the same varietal. Ways of discovering the best of each can range from choosing a selection from a shelf to touring the vineyards of a region. However, to ensure you get the best wine for a special occasion choose better wines from Mr.Wheeler. We work closely with vineyards across the globe; many of them small, family run businesses. Constantly on the lookout for new examples, we ensure we are choosing better wine for our customers to experience. The labels on the wine we sell clearly display the varietal as well as a wealth of other information and we are always happy to help if further explanation is required. With our help, you are certain to find the very best wines.

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