Do You Know Your Wine Varietals?

By Zeke Quezada

We know what we love to drink and we can often name the wine by varietal. Or can we?

Varietals – Wines made entirely or principally from a single grape variety showing differing components of aromas and flavors.

You may love Cabernet Sauvignon and have a Zinfandel that you treasure but have you discovered any of the lesser-known varietals. 

Take a look at these varietals that may not have made it into your glass with some tasting notes.

Take a look at our complete list of varietals

Carménère 

  • A little-used Bordeaux blending grape
  • Introduced to Chile in 1850s and has become Chilean signature grape as varietal
  • Late-ripening, does well with Chilean Central Valley’s long growing season
  • Deep red wines, aromas of red berry, spice, smoky, chocolate, soft tannins
  • Best consumed young
  • When not fully ripened, herbaceous, with aromas and flavors of green bell pepper (result of pyrazines)
  • Ripeness brings out cherry notes and spice with leather and tobacco, smoke and cocoa, a savory wine that goes well with “umami” foods
  • Aging in wood tends to add a mushroom-like earthiness

Verdejo

  • Native to the Rueda region of Spain
  • High altitude vineyards with calcareous soils and wide diurnal swings
  • Extremely aromatic grape, soft and full-bodied
  • Normally harvested at night, to prevent oxidation and browning of the grape juice
  • Obscure for centuries, but modern winemakers have established Verdejo as the finest white wine in Spain
  • Rueda wine must be at least 50% Verdejo
  • Often blended with Sauvignon Blanc or Macabeo to add body and richness
  • Single varietal Verdejo is produced
  • Typically Verdejo-dominated wines are crisp with soft, creamy, nutty overtones, and sometimes accompanied by notes of honey
  • Typically mineral and highly acidic

Roussanne

  • Native to Rhône region of France
  • Unusual russet color when ripe
  • Warm climates – rich wines – flavors of honey and pear, and full body
  • Cool climates – floral and delicate, herbal tea
  • Plantings in California, Texas, Washington and Australia, Crete, Tuscany, Spain
  • Late ripening and poor yielding, susceptible to vine diseases
  • Rounds out both white and red blends, makes then fuller and sweeter tasting, mellower
  • Often blended with Marsanne and sometimes Viognier
  • Can be a component of red Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Torrontés –  Argentina – White Torrontés

  • Thrives in northern Salta province of Argentina
  • Extremely high altitude (highest vineyards in the world at 8000 feet plus)
  • Makes up for low latitude closer to the equator 25°S.
  • Aromatic wines with moderate acidity, smooth texture, peach and apricot aromas and favors

Gewurztraminer

  • Very aromatic, spicy
  • lychee, floral, rose, passion fruit, savory finish
  • High natural sugar, results in…
  • Off-dry and/or
  • High alcohol
  • Cool climate
  • Germany, Northeast Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Southern Australia