What’s the difference between Varietal and Variety?

What’s the difference between Varietal and Variety?

Lately, I’ve been hearing the word “varietal” slung around in every wine store and wine-sipping café that I dare enter. With arched eyebrows and distinguished posture, folks wax downright poetic about this or that nuance found in this or that varietal.

The first few times I heard these conversations, I wondered what the deal was. I mean, what happened to just using the plain old word “variety”? Is there a difference in the two words or does one just sound more like you’re a wine aficionado?

After a little research, I discovered that the difference is simply this: “Variety” is a noun. As in, “The grape variety is Chardonnay.” Or, “The Chardonnay grape is a type of variety.”

“Varietal” is actually an adjective used to describe wine made from a certain variety of grape. So, a wine labeled “Merlot” is a varietal. Varietal wines are more common to “New World” wines such as Australia or the USA because these are the regions that tend to bottle their wine according to the variety of grape used. In “Old World” regions such as France, wine is identified by the appellation (region) in which the grape was grown and the wine itself could actually consist of a blend of several different grape varieties (such as a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah).

Got it? Good. Now, get thee to a wine bar and start arching some eyebrows.

Just kidding. It is against the principles of antiwinesnob to encourage such behavior.

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