By Wine Varietal

Making Wine Understandable ©  By wine varietal

With American and other "New World" wines, the varietal name comes first and then comes the appellation(locality).  

      This was a great marketing move by New World Wineries.  Is it easier to market thousand of brands from many entire countries as simply as chardonnay or  Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet or Chassagne-Montrachet, small places in a very limited production in Cotes-de-Beaune France which is, you guessed it, chardonnay.  The snob factor in knowing  European wines is hard to resist?

With European wines the appellation (locality) is more important and the varietal second --whether a varietal or a percentage of a varietal is either allowed or not depends on the rule for that appellation (locality).  

     Sticking with chardonnnay from Puligny-Monrachet mentioned above, there is also the classification of wines from that region into hierachies of different levels based on the actual vineyards: Premier Grand Crus, Seconds Grands Crus  and Troisiemes Grands Crus.

To help you decide, here are some common varietals :  

Body/“Mouthfeel” of the More Common Varietals – Lighter to Heavier

These are broadest of generalizations but at least it is a frame of reference for beginners.  This is especially true if the wine is under $12.00 a bottle retail.  Semillon, for example, is totally different if you are talking about an expensive French Sauternes. This is only a sketch to start building your wine knowledge.

Whites         Lighter to Heavier

  1. Riesling                            Less Body
  2. Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
  3. Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc
  4. Chardonnay
  5. Semillon
  6. Malvasia
  7. Chenin Blanc
  8. Viognier
  9. Gewurtraminer             More Body


  1. White Zinfandel
  2. White Merlot
  3. White Cabernet

Red       Lighter to Heavier

  1. Beaujolais (Gamay)   Less Body
  2. Pinot Noir
  3. Cabernet Franc
  4. Sangiovese
  5. Merlot
  6. Cabernet Sauvignon
  7. Barbera
  8. Zinfandel
  9. Aglianco
  10. Nebbiolo
  11. Syrah/Shiraz
  12. Mourvedre
  13. Petite Syrah
  14. Malbec                     More Body