Wine Varietals



By vintage or varietal

A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown in a single specified year, and are accordingly dated as such. Consequently, it is not uncommon for wine enthusiasts and traders to save bottles of an especially good vintage wine for future consumption. However, there is some disagreement and research about the significance of vintage year to wine quality. Most countries allow a vintage wine to include a portion of wine that is not from the labeled vintage.

A varietal wine is wine made from a dominant grape such as a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine may not be entirely of that one grape and varietal labeling laws differ. In the United States a wine needs to be composed of at least 75% of a particular grape to be labeled as a varietal wine. In the European Union, a minimum of 85% is required if the name of a single varietal is diplayed, and if two or more varietals are mentioned, these varietals combined must make up 100% and they must be listed in descending order. E.g., a mixture of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Viognier must be called Chardonnay-Viognier rather than Viognier-Chardonnay.

See the list of varietals (variety) shown on the side bar.

In France

Within the European Union, a wine using a varietal label must contain at least 85% of that variety. 85% is a common minimum standard; national regulations may set the limit higher in certain cases, but not lower.

In most regions of France, terroir is thought to surpass the impact of variety, so almost all French wines traditionally have no variety listed at all, and would in many cases not be allowed for AOC wines. Champagne, for instance, is typically a blend of ChardonnayPinot noir and Pinot Meunier, but this is not indicated anywhere on the label. In Alsace, winemakers adopt the German custom of varietal labeling.

In recent years, varietal labels have become more common for French wines. Most of these wines are Vin de pays rather than AOC wines, but varietal names are also seen on some regional AOCs.