Varietal Types of Wine

Varietal types of wine are too numerous to count because of cloning, replanting and creating hybrids. However, understanding the major varietals can help you if you ever plan to go wine tasting.

What are varietals?
A varietal is the particular variety or type of grape used in a wine. The main varietals grown today are Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot and Zinfandel.

According to law, in order to name a wine after a particular grape (or varietal), approximately 75 percent or more of the grapes used in that batch of wine must be from the same varietal. That means the other 25 percent can be a different grape, which in some instances is intended to change the flavor and in other instances is intended to retain the same flavor.

Red Wine Varietals
Cabernet. This is a good stand-alone wine; it doesn't require blending, but it does blend nicely without losing its great flavor. Usual flavors found in Cabernet include berries and vegetables, with herbs, tobacco and, in some cases, mint mixed in.

Merlot. This wine leans toward berry flavors with a slight shift in the direction of delicate herbs. Merlot ripens earlier than most grape varieties and also is a good stand-alone varietal.

Zinfandel. This wine also lends itself well to berry flavors, but often adds a slight hint of oak. At times this wine also favors spicy pepper, mixed with more earthy flavors. Zinfandel comes in both red and white varietals.

White Wine Varietals
Chardonnay. Chardonnay offers intense, bold flavors that may include several fruits, including apple, melon, pear, peach or even citrus flavors. Among the many distinct flavors and aromas, wine enthusiasts may notice a slight taste or scent of honey or butter, as well as some spicy flavors.

White Zinfandel. This wine is more of a light-bodied wine. By leaving the white wine and the dark grape skins together for a period of time, a romantic pink blush emerges.

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