Wine Varietals: What’s Your Preference?

There are a number of different factors that will define what a wine will taste like.  However, the most important factor is almost always the Varietals.

A varietal is a wine that is made from primarily one grape and carrying the name of that grape.  It is important to note that a wine must be composed of at least 75% of that particular grape to carry the varietal.  When choosing a wine you have two choices: varietals and blends.

It is always difficult to define how many varietals exist because they are increasing as more wineries are using the genetic combination of several grapes to produce new species of grapes.  With each new species comes a new varietal  All of the grapes that are used come from two basic families: Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Labrusca.  It is the thousands of varieties within these two families that define the varietal.

Even if you have never drunk wine before, you have probably heard of the most common varietals including: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  However, it is a mistake to say that these are the only varietals worth trying.  Here is a quick look at 6 other varietals that are quickly growing in popularity.

White Wines

  • Riesling

Rieslings were long discarded as being only sweet and one-dimensional.  However, there has been many improvements over the years.  They can now take a range of flavors.  Some Rieslings taste like melons, while other are tart like a grapefruit.  They can also be very crisp and refreshing or extremely dry.  Traditionally, they have aromas and flavors of apple, lemon, and apricot.  Rieslings can come from all parts of world including Germany, the United States, Africa, Canada, and much of Western Europe.

  • Sauvignon Blanc

A Sauvignon Blanc can be difficult to predict.  There are a variety of flavors that this grape can create.  Some are extremely fruity while others are almost grassy.  It is naturally very acid which leads to a very tangy, tart, racy, or zesty character that is common in even the sweetest dessert versions of this wine.  New Zealand has become well-known for producing the best Sauvignon Blanc.

  • Muscat

White Muscat grapes are unlike many others because the wines often actually taste like grapes.  There are four fundamental varieties of this grape including: Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Hamburg, Muscat Ottonel, and Muscat Blanc.  Each version has a subtle variation from the rest however they all have an easily recognizable scent and are often sweet, aromatic, and very intense.  Almost every Mediterranean country has a wine that is based on the muscat grape.  The grape itself is best grown in areas that are damp with deep soil depths.

Red Wines

  • Syrah/Shiraz

It is important to understand that Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape.  It is known as Syrah largely in France and the United States and Shiraz in Australia and South Africa.  The name Shiraz comes from an ancient city in Iran where the grape variety allegedly originates from.  It creates a very dark to medium bodied wine that often has a strong blueberry tone and often an inherent spicy or peppery flavor.  It is often common to find notes of plum and smokiness as well.  In total, a Syrah can create very complex combinations of flavors and aromas.  It used to predominantly be found in France, however many other regions such as Australia, South Africa, and United States have quickly expanded their production.

  • Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is continually falling in and out of style.  The main reason for this is that the Pinot Noir grape is extremely difficult to work with.  The region that has achieved the most success is a 2 mile by 30 mile strip in France known as Cote d’Or, however several areas of California have started to produce it consistently as well.  It is not a durable grape and is considered to be very genetically unstable.  This leads to a variety of flavors and aromas.  There are currently 46 recognized variations of this grape in France alone.  In general, you can expect aromas and flavors that include: Strawberry, Cherry, Blackberry, Raspberry and hints of mint, rosemary, and cinnamon.

  • Barbera

Barbera has historical roots in Italy.  It is a beautiful wine that can be recognized by its deep, ruby red appearance.  It is a low tannins wine that will never overpower any food that it is served with.  It is currently primarily produced in Italy and parts of California.  In general, there is not a large demand for Barbera and it is more often used in blends than by itself.  Its flavors and aromas are all rooted in the darker berries including blackberry, blueberry, and a dark red cherry.

These are just 6 of the thousands of different varietals available to try.  Whether you try them or not is unimportant.  However, it is important that there are extremely high-quality and pleasing wines outside of the most common wine varietals.

Photo Credits

By pizzodisevo (doing TENS for pain )

Photo by Zest-pk

Photo by travlinman43

Photo by Pingu1963

Photo by mynameisharsha

Sonya Lee

Since a child, Sonya has been traveling from the corners of Canada to the far east Asia. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, she led a normal family life with her brother, mother and dad. A well received job opportunity in Hong Kong for her father put the compass in action from a young age. Sonya loves good food, and I mean GOOD simple food. She loves an occasional drink, be merry and enjoy the good times. Having recently healed herself from a large ruptured cyst, her favorite foods include fresh carrot juice, grilled vegetables, sauteed portabello mushrooms and truffle french fries. Her philosophy? Healthy food makes a healthy body. Read more on the Editor page. When she's not fretting over WAFT, she runs a small design agency called mowie media and shares the good times with her dog, Monster and 3 cats Sabi, Kaeli & Misty.

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