Wine Varietals


Written by:

Joe Becerra

Last updated:

wine varieties

The term wine varietal/wine varieties refer to the grape from which the wine is made. By United States law, the variety must have at least 75% of that grape. Example: A California bottle of wine labeled Zinfandel must contain at least 75% Zinfandel grapes. See How to Read a California Wine Label.

Most Common Wine Varieties in California Wine Country

As you visit California wineries, you will discover many varieties of wine each with their distinctive flavors and characteristics. There hundreds of grape varieties in the world of wine. In Lodi wine country, there are 100 varieties of grapes planted. Below is a listing of the most popular wine varieties produced by California vintners.

Top California White Varietals

View the Wine Chart for additional information

Top California Red Varietals

View the Wine Chart for additional information

It is these wines that you will most likely soon begin to recognize and identify their specific characteristics. Later, as you gain understanding through tasting wines, you will begin to recognize subtle differences within each varietal.

You will find that a particular varietal will vary in taste and flavors from winery to winery and from region to region. The aromas and flavors of wine will depend on the location of the vineyards, how the vineyards are managed, and the winemaker’s recipe for making this wine. You will discover wines that you will love and will want to add to your collection of wines.

The tasting room will usually have a set of tasting notes on the counter. These notes describe the aromas and flavors for each of the wines you will be tasting. Use the notes to educate yourself about the wines.

Other Varieties

There are other common varietals that you will find but not as often as the above wines. You will find among the white wines Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and dry Riesling. Among the reds, you will see Barbera, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Franc.

We have developed a chart listing the characteristics of the various varietals of wines that you are likely to encounter at the wineries listed in our getaways. Bring the chart with you when you visit wineries. It will help you learn the characteristics of the various varietals of California wines.
If you want to learn more about understanding and recognizing the varietals we recommend Andrea Immer’s book “Great Wines Made Simple.” Get together a group of your friends and have fun learning about wines.

Special Labeled Wines – Meritage or Bordeaux Style Blends

Sometimes a winemaker will blend two or more wines to make a Bordeaux-style red wine. Examples are BV’s Tapestry, Yorkville Vineyards’ Richard the Lion-Heart, or Robert Sinskey’s Vineyard Reserve Red. Wines of these types do not contain 75 percent one varietal. The winemaker attempts to blend the varieties into a unique tasting wine. If the wine has the name Meritage on the label, the blend must conform to the criteria set by the Meritage Association.

Rosé Type Wines

These wines are made by leaving the skin on the grapes for a short duration. The wines are served chilled the same way you would serve white wines. Most of the new style blush wines are on the dry side, with interesting flavors you will not find in either white or red wines.

Late Harvest Wines

These are wines that are harvested long after the normal harvest time. The sugar levels become highly concentrated and as a result the wines are sweet and usually designated as dessert wines. They pair nicely with desserts.

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

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