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
Red Lighter to Heavier