Wine Varietal Glossary

What is a Varietal? – Varietal refers to the type of grape that is used in making wine.

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 exclusvely in Italy’s Piedmon region. It produces light and fruity wine

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

Gewürztraminer – Gewürztraminer is a white German wine that produced distinctive wines rich in spicy aromas and full flavors, raning 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 Frances’ Rhone Valley. Rich in color with early 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.

Rosés (Blush Wines) – Rosés, 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. Rosés are light, usually somewhat sweet and best served well-chilled.

Sangiovese – Sangiovese is best known as the Italian red wine, Chianti. Hearty and dry 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.