Wines are named for their grape variety (a varietal wine is one that is named after either the principal or the sole grape variety that makes up the wine; those produced in the United States are named by the grape variety); or for the place where the grapes grew (most European wines are named for the geographical area of origin, also known as “appellation,”). Using these two naming systems the following table provides a short description of varietal and growing region names commonly used to identify wines.
Albarino. Spanish, Galacia; medium-bodied white with a distinctive peach or apricot aroma.
Aligoté. French, Burgundy; light-bodied, high acidity, white wine with aromas of apples and lemons.
Amarone. Italian, Veneto; dry, raisiny, full-flavored, full-bodied red wine with very little acid.
Arneis. Italian, Piedmont; dry and crisp, full to Medium-bodied white wine with aromas of almonds, pear and apricots.
Asti (formerly Asti Spumante). Italian, Piedmont; light, semisweet, low alcohol sparkling wine often served with dessert.
Bandol. French, Provence; late ripening Mourvèdre grapes blended to make red and rosé wines characterized by spicy and earthy flavors.
Banyuls. French, Roussillon; full-bodied, fortified, sweet dessert red wine.
Barbaresco. Italian, Piedmont; dry, full-flavored red wine; tannic when young, with aromas of roses or violets and flavors of cherry & licorice.
Barbera. Italian, Piedmont; medium-bodied, high-acidity, vibrant fruit (blackberry and black cherry) red wine.
Barbera d’Alba & Barbera d’Asti.Two areas that produce the “Best” Berbera wine.
Bardolino. Italian, Verona; Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes blended to produce light-bodied, dry red wine.
Barolo. Italian, Piedmont; dry, slightly bitter, full-flavored red wine with pronounced tannins and acidity.
Beaujolais. French, Burgundy; dry, light-bodied, fruity red wine with soft flavors made from Gamay grapes.
Beaujolais-Villages (Nouveau). Wine from a select area where it has the potential to be of higher quality.
Beaujolais-Cur. More full-bodied, darker in color, and significantly longer-lived wine from a more limited area and considered a notch above Beaujolais-Villages wine.
Bordeaux, Red. French, Bordeaux; medium-bodied red blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère.
Bordeaux, White. French, Bordeaux; dry, light-bodied blends most commonly of Sémillon and Sauvignon blanc.
Brachetto D’Acqui. Italian, Piedmont; aromatic sweet red wine with strong floral and fruit notes; still or sparkling.
Brunello (Brunello di Montalcino). Italian, Tuscany; dry, medium-bodied, high acidity red wine with smooth tannins and ripe, fruit driven character.
Burgundy, Red. French (sub-regions: Beaujolais, Côte d’Auxerre (Chablis), Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Côte de Nuits, and Mâconnais); light to full-bodied fruity red wine made from mostly from Pinot noir and Gamay grapes.
Burgundy, White. French French (sub-regions: Beaujolais, Côte d’Auxerre (Chablis), Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Côte de Nuits, and Mâconnais); medium to full-bodied rich, complex white wine made mostly from Chardonnay and Aligoté grapes.
Cabernet Franc. French, Bordeaux and Loire Valley; medium-bodied red wine principally used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, less tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon and a smoother mouthfeel.
Cabernet Sauvignon. Full-bodied rich in fruit & oak, dry, red wine.
Cannonau. Italian, Sardinia; full-bodied, Grenache-based, red wine.
Cava. Spanish, Catalonia; medium-bodied sparkling white or rosé wine made from macabeu, parellada and xarello grape varieties.
Chablis. French, Buragundy; medium-bodied Chardonnay-based wine.
Champagne. French, Champagne region; sparkling or carbonated wine from secondary fermentation, usually medium-bodied with a range of sweetness. Sparkling wines produced in other areas of the world are not considered Champagne.
Chardonnay. Medium to full-bodied, rich, complex white wine produced throughout the world.
Chateauneuf-Du-Pape. French, Southern Rhone Valley; full-bodied red and white wines made from a blend of predominantly Grenache grapes.
Chenin Blanc. French, Loire Valley; light to medium-bodied crisp, acidic white wine.
Chianti. Italian, central Tuscany; medium-bodied Sangiovese-based red wine.
Chinon. French, Loire Valley; medium-bodied red wine made with Cabernet Franc.
Claret. French, Bordeauz; medium-bodied red blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec).
Condrieu. French, Rhiône Valley; full-bodied white wine wine made with Viognier grapes.
Cortese. Italian, Piedmont; a grape native grape used to make Gavi, a dry white wine from the village of the same name.
Corton-Charlemagne. French, Burgundy; full-bodied white wine with rich buttery and fruit flavors.
Côte-Rôtie. French, Rhône Valley; full-bodied red wines with strong aromas and flavor-concentrated fruit.
Côtes Du Rhône. French, Rhône Valley; medium-bodied red, white and rosé wines made from Grenache (reds and rosés) or Grenache blanc (whites).
Crozes-Hermitage. French, Northern Rhône Valley; full-bodied red wines made from the Syrah grape and sometimes blended.
Dolcetto. Italian, Piedmont’ light to medium-bodied red wine, usually dry, firm grapey-spicy fruit, not much tannin and moderate, or low acidity.
Douro. Portuguese medium-bodied red table wine; or Port.
Entre-Deux-Mers. French, Bordeaiux; medium-bodied, dry, fruity white wine.
Falanghina. Italian, Campagna; an ancient grape variety producing medium-bodied, acidic white wine.
Frascati. Italian, Roma Region; light-bodied white wine.
Gavi. Italian, Piedmont; full-bodied, dry, crisp white wine with citrus and mineral flavors; made from Cortese grapes.
Gewürztraminer. Medium-bodied white wine. Very aromatic with tropical fruits of lychee, passion fruit and perfumed flowers.
Gigondas. French, Rhône Valley; medium-bodied red wine; considered by some to be similar to the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Greco. Italian, Avellino; full-bodied white (bianco) and black (nero) grapes that produce clean, pleasant, dry wines.
Grenache. Red grape grown in France, Spain and California. Spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content.
Grüner Veltliner. Austrian; medium-bodied white grape variety that produces particularly food-friendly wine.
Hermitage. French, Northern Rhône Valley; wine region that produces medium to full-bodied red wine mostly from the Syrah grape.
Madeira. From the island of Madeira (Southwest of Portugal); fortified, dry to sweet white wine usually consumed with dessert.
Madiran. French, produced around the village of Madiran in Gascony; full-bodied red wine, typically very concentrated, high in tannins and traditionally requires several years aging to be at its best.
Malbec. Grown in Cahors, (South West) France and Argentine and a varietal wine around the world. Full-bodied red wine; deep in color, intense fruity flavors and velvety texture.
Marsala. Italian, a wine produced in the region surrounding the city of Marsala in Sicily; fortified dessert wine similar to Port, Madeira and Sherry.
Meritage. American, Bordeaux-style blends (primarily red) of at least two varieties with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend.
Merlot. Grape variety grown throughout the world that produces a medium-bodied red wine with flavors of berry, plum, and currant; it is popular grape for blending and is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine
Meursault. French, wine produced in the commune of Meursault in Côte de Beaune of Burgundy; medium to full-bodied white wine; most often 100% Chardonnay.
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Italian medium to full-bodied red wine made from Montepulciano grapes in the Abruzzo region; typically dry with soft tannins and balanced acidity.
Moscato D’Asti. A wine region in the Northwest Piedmont area of Italy that produces a sweet semi-sparkling white wine with an earthy musk aroma.
Mourvédre. A wine grape grown throughout the world; medium to full-bodied, tannic red wine that can be high in alcohol.
Muscadet (Melon). A French white wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and grown in the Loire Valley; light-bodied, dry white wine with green apple and citrus flavors; In the United States it’s called Melon.
Muscadine. Native American grape grown in the southern United States; sweet and usually a dessert wine although some drier varieties exist.
Muscat. A grape variety grown throughout the world for wine, raisins and table grapes; Grapes produce a fragrant sweet dessert wine often labeled as Moscato in the United States.
Nebbiolo. Italian, predominantly in the Piedmont, light colored, medium-boded, highly tannic wine; frequently requires years of aging to balance the tannins with other characteristics.
Nero D’Avola. Italian, low-acid, sweet tannins and medium to full-bodied red wine from Sicily; frequently compared to New World Shirazes.
Orvieto. Italian, Umbria and Lazio regions; light to medium-bodied white wine; usually dry, but a semi-sweet style, known as Orvieto Abboccato, and dolce (sweet), are also produced.
Pauillac. French full-bodied red blends; often considered the quintessence of Bordeaux wines.
Petite Sirah (Durif). New World full-bodied, tannic, red wines with a spicy, plummy flavor.
Pinot Bianco. Italian light to medium-bodied white wine.
Pinot Blanc. New world medium-bodied white grape that is a genetic mutation of Pinot noir; it is usually a blend of wine with fruity aromas and high acidity.
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris. A white wine grape variety (called Pinot Grigo in Italy and Pinot Gris in the rest of the world) thought to be a mutant clone of the Pinot noir; yields light to medium-bodied white wines with a crisp, refreshing taste; they can vary greatly depending on the region and wine making style.
Pinot Noir. A red grape variety grown around the world in cooler regions e.g., Burgundy Willamette Valley, the Carneros, Central Coast and Russian River valley); wines are Light to full-bodied fruity, red wine; widely known as “the finest wine in the world.”
Port. Portuguese fortified sweet wine exclusively in the Douro Valley; typically a red dessert wine, though it also comes as dry, semi-dry, and white.
Pouilly-Fuissé. French appellation in Burgundy; refreshing full-bodied, dry, white wine made from Chardonnay grapes.
Pouilly-Fumé. Loire valley in France; medium-bodied white wine made purely from Sauvignon blanc.
Primitivo. Italian full-bodied robust red wine from Puglia; the same grape as American Zinfandel.
Priorat. Spanish full-bodied powerful red wine.
Prosecco. Italian light-bodied dry or extra dry sparkling wine that has become popular as a less expensive substitute for Champagne.
Quarts De Chaume. French sweet white dessert wine made with dried grapes.
Recioto. Italian sweet red wine made with dried grapes.
Retsina. Greek strong white or rosé wine with pine resin added during fermentation.
Rhone. French wine region that produces red wines from the Syrah grape, and white wines from Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier grapes.
Ribeiro. Spanish light-bodied white wines known for their fresh, slightly acidic, fruity character.
Ribera Del Duero. Spanish full-bodied red wine from the Tempranillo grape.
Riesling. German and French light-bodied white wine with varying degrees of sweetness.
Rioja. Spanish medium to full-bodied red wine that has spent less than a year in an oak aging barrel.
Rioja Reserva. Rioja wine aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak.
Rioja Gran Reserva. Rioja wines that have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle.
Roditis. Greek light-bodied white wine; commonly blended with Savatiano in making Retsina.
Rosado. Spanish light to medium-bodied rosé.
Rosé. Light to medium-bodied pink wine typically that incorporates some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine.
Roussanne. French full-bodied white wine with intense aromatics; drinks well the first few years or after seven or eight years.
Saint-Emilion. French medium-bodied red wines typically blended from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sake. Japanese rice wine.
Sancerre. French medium-bodied acidic white wine made principally from Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Sangiovese. Italian medium-bodied red wine with fresh fruity flavors; due to the high acidity and light body characteristics it is commonly blended.
Sauternes. French sweet white dessert wine.
Sauvignon Blanc. New World crisp, dry, and refreshing light to medium-bodied white wine.
Sémillon. French medium-bodied dry and sweet white wine.
Sherry. Spanish fortified white wine from Jerez De La Frontera.
Shiraz/Syrah. Full-bodied red wine made from the Syrah grape as a varietal or blended; Shiraz is made exclusively in Australia.
Shiraz, Sparkling. Australian sparkling wines, that range from dry to sweet.
Soave. Italian dry, light to medium-bodied white wine; a sparkling spumante style is produced as are late harvest recioto and liquoroso styles.
Super Tuscan. Italian “Chianti-style” medium to full-bodied, blended, high quality non-DOC red wine.
Tempranillo. Spanish full-bodied fruity red grape that is low in both acidity and sugar content; commonly blended with Grenache.
Trebbiano. Italian light-bodied unremarkable white wine usually blended with other grapes to make table wine.
Trincadeira. Portuguese medium to full-bodied red wine commonly used to make Port.
Valpolicella. Italian fragrant, light-bodied, dry red table wine.
Verdelho. Portuguese/Spanish dry, medium-bodied white wine known for its high acidity.
Vermentino (Pigato and Favorita). Italian aromatic medium-bodied white wine including sweet and sparkling variants.
Vernaccia Italian crisp medium-bodied white wine with good acidity and citrus fruit.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Italian medium to full-bodied red wine made primarily from Sangiovese grapes.
Viognier. French crisp, dry, floral, full-bodied white wine.
Volnay. French light and aromatic, medium-bodied red wine known to be elegant rather than powerful.
Vouvray. French dry, medium-bodied white wine made almost exclusively from Chenin blanc.