Varietal describes wines made primarily from a single named grape variety. [The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000.] Cite web|last= "Oxford Companion to Wine"| title= varietal |url= ] Similarly, the term can be used to describe cider made from a single variety of apple or to describe particular subspecies of coffee. The term is frequently misused in place of vine 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.

The term's concept was developed by Maynard Amerine at the UC Davis after the Prohibition seeking to encourage growers to choose optimal vine varieties, and later promoted by Frank Schoonmaker in the 1950s and 1960s, ultimately becoming widespread during the California wine boom of the 1970s.

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 de pays. Also, in its own way, Chardonnay is now a powerful brand.


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.


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.


In the USA, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulations specify a minimum variety 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 variety from which it was made, and certain varietals must contain at least 95% of that variety, although the new "Southern Oregon" sub-AVA allows for the minimum 75% figure.

ee also

* List of grape varieties


External links

* [ Wine varietals]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • variétal — variétal, ale, aux [ varjetal, o ] adj. • 1914; de variété; cf. angl. varietal (1866) ♦ Didact. D une variété, en sciences. Caractères spécifiques (de l espèce) et caractères variétaux. ● variétal, variétale, variétaux adjectif Relatif à une… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Varietal — Va*ri e*tal, a. Of or pertaining to a variety; characterizing a variety; constituting a variety, in distinction from an individual or species. [1913 Webster] Perplexed in determining what differences to consider as specific, and what as varietal …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Varietal — es, en enología, el vino elaborado con un solo tipo de uva o prácticamente solo con una. En la legislación de la Unión Europea se considera varietales a los vinos que contienen más del 80% de la uva principal, por ejemplo Cabernet Sauvignon,… …   Wikipedia Español

  • varietal — [və rī′ə təl] adj. 1. of, connected with, or characterizing a variety 2. constituting a distinct variety; specif., designating a wine that bears the name of the variety of grape from which it is made n. a varietal wine varietally adv …   English World dictionary

  • varietal — index different Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • varietal — varietál adj. m., pl. varietáli; f. sg. varietálă, pl. varietále Trimis de siveco, 10.08.2004. Sursa: Dicţionar ortografic …   Dicționar Român

  • varietal — (adj.) 1866, a biologists word (first attested in Darwin), from VARIETY (Cf. variety). In ref. to wines, meaning made from a single variety of grape is first attested 1941, Amer.Eng. As a noun, in this sense, attested from 1955 …   Etymology dictionary

  • varietal — I. adjective Date: 1866 1. of, relating to, or characterizing a variety < varietal names >; also being a variety in distinction from an individual or species 2. of, relating to, or producing a varietal II. noun Date: 1950 a wine bearing the name… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • varietal — 1. adjective /vəˈraɪətəl/ a) Pertaining to a distinct variety of organism. b) Made from a single specific variety (especially of grapes in wine). 2. noun /vəˈraɪətəl/ a) A wine made primarily from or exclusively from a single variety of grape, wh …   Wiktionary

  • varietal — varietally, adv. /veuh ruy i tl/, adj. 1. of, pertaining to, designating, or characteristic of a variety. 2. constituting a variety. 3. (in U.S. winemaking) designating a wine made entirely or chiefly from one variety of grape. n. 4. a varietal… …   Universalium

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