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Varietal

From Academic Kids

Varietal describes wines made from a single named grape variety.

As vintners and consumers have become aware of the characteristics of individual varieties of wine grapes, wines have also come to be identified by varietal names. Varietal wines are made primarily from a single variety of grape, and identify this variety on the label.

Contents

Marketing relevance

The alternatives to the marketing differentiation of wines by grape variety are branded wine, such as Hearty Burgundy, or geographical appellations, such as Champagne or Bordeaux. The poor quality and unknown provenance of many branded wines and the multitude of potentially confusing, sometimes difficult to pronounce appellations leaves varietal labeling as perhaps the most popular for quality wines in many markets. This is much less the case in places where appellations have a long and strong tradition, as for instance in France. In the past, the grape variety was very uncommonly mentioned on the labels of French wine bottles, and was forbidden for almost all AOC wines. New World varietal wines from newcomers like Australia and Chile have made a significant dent in traditional French export markets like the UK, and so the French are adopting varietal labeling in some cases, particularly for vin du pays. Also, in its own way, "Chardonnay" is now a powerful brand.

USA

In the USA, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulations specify a minimum varietal content of 75% of the labeled grape, for Vitis vinifera wines, and 51% for Vitis labrusca wines. There is no restriction on the identity of the balance. Many states in the United States require specific compositions to qualify for sale under a particular varietal labels. For example, in Oregon, wines subject to its regulation must be identified by the grape varietal from which it was made, and must contain at least 95% of that varietal.

Australia

Australia has virtually completed a three decade long transition from labelling by style, eg "claret", "burgundy", "hock", "chablis" to a varietal system. While this has been done in response to pressure from the EU, particularly France, it has paved the way for growing interest among Australian consumers for so called alternative varietals, such as Pinot Grigio / (Pinot Gris), Sangiovese and Tempranillo.

France

In most regions of France, terroir is thought to surpass the impact of variety, so most French wines have no variety listed at all. Champagne, for instance, is typically a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but this is not indicated anywhere on the label. In Alsace, winemakers adopt the German custom of varietal labeling, and varietal wines must be 100% made from the named grape.

Vitis vinifera varietal wine examples

Some hybrid varietals

Major Vitis labrusca varietal wines

The Vitis aestivalis wine

  • Norton / Cynthiana - One of the few native North American grape species which can be used to make wine without the "foxy" attributes of labrusca.

See also

nl:Cépage

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