Just to help clear it up, if we can believe Wine Spectator:
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Please explain the nuances between the terms “variety” and “varietal”? Webster’s says Cabernet Sauvignon is a variety. If so, why do I hear the word “varietal” used so much in reference to wine?
—Ned O., Philadelphia
A lot of folks confuse these terms—most wine lovers don’t know that one word refers to grapes, the other to wine. Varieties are types of grapes, i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, Chardonnay grapes, Zinfandel grapes, etc.
A varietal is a wine that is labeled as being made from one grape variety. Typically you’ll see varietals from New World countries, while Old World wines are more frequently labeled by their region of origin. So wines labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Zinfandel are varietals.
@rjquillin That’s not even correct.
“Variety” is a noun
“Varietal” is an adjective
Nouns and adjectives apply to sentences in known ways by the rules of grammar. So it’s wrong to ask “what’s the wine’s varietal” without either an additional word or two, but it is correct to ask “what varieties are in this wine”.
Then again, most people now seem to think that you use an apostrophe to make words plural. So whatever…