Wine Words: Variety vs. Varietal

Wine Words: Variety vs. Varietal

Variety and varietal are two wine words that are so often confused and misused. Unfortunately wine professionals confuse the two as much as everyday wine consumers. Do you know the difference?

Variety vs. Varietal: The easiest way to remember the distinction is to remember that one (variety) is a noun and the other (varietal) is an adjective. The word variety refers to the grape variety, grown and used to make the wine such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and so forth. The word varietal is an adjective, and refers to the wine. It describes a wine that is made from a single or dominant grape variety. Such wines are called varietal wines. For a wine to be varietally labeled it must be a minimum of 75% made from the stated grape variety (and 85% if exported to the European Union). So technically and legally a varietal Chardonnay wine can contain up to 15% of other white varieties! Traditionally varietal labeling was more prevalent among New World wine producers, but that too is changing. Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.

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