Varietals and Varietal Character is sometime a confusing term for new wine drinkers. It really is interchangeable with “variety” or the single type of grape within a species with distinct characteristics. Common varietals most have tasted include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Riesling among many others. There are thousands of varieties of grapes – Italy alone has over 1,000 varietals and France has about 150 varietals. Not all wine producing countries list varieties on their labels leading to some confusion for the wine buyers.
In the United States, since 1983, at least 75 percent of a varietal must be in a wine labeled as a varietal wine. This means some wine producers can designate their wine “Chardonnay” although it may include 25 percent other varieties. Most reputable Chardonnay producers (higher end wines) produce wines with 100 percent Chardonnay.