Wine styles and types - FAQ

Questions and answers

What are the noble varieties in Alsace?

Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains

Wines that are labelled Alsace Grand Cru must be from a named vineyard site and be made from one of these four varieties. Marcel Deiss is the one exception, making a Grand Cru blend in Altenberg de Bergheim.

How sweet is a sweet wine?

Officially it is any wine with a residual sugar of at least 45g/l.

Medium sweet wines legally must have between 12 and 45g/l of residual sugar, according to the EU.

However, perceptions of sweetness can vary from wine to another. Acidity, alcohol and many other factors can alter our perception of how sweet a wine really is. For example a dry Chardonnay (under 2g/l RS) may have a feeling of sweetness due to the ripeness of fruit, the use of oak and high alcohol. However, a German Riesling may taste drier than it really is thanks to bracing acidity which balances it out.

What does Extra Brut mean on a Champagne?

Extra Brut is an ultra-dry style of that's best served with food.

The EU states that it must have residual sugar content of less than 6g/l. Sparkling wines must have less than 15g/l; Extra Dry between 12-20g.l; Dry 17-35g/l and Medium Dry (Demi Sec) 33-50g/l.

While an increasing number of Extra Brut Champagnes have come on the market, Champagne expert Tom Stevenson is not a fan and says: 'Sugar brings finesse and enables further ageing.

What's the difference between a Fino and Manzanilla sherry?

It's difficult to tell the difference between a Fino and Manzanilla in a blind tasting.

They are both made in the same way and taste similar although Manzanilla tends to have a true salty tang.

Fino is aged in cellars in Jerez whereas Manzanilla is aged in the bodegas of coastal town Sanlucar de Barrameda. The flor, the veil of yeast that forms on the surface of the wine grows more thickly in the cooler, more humid town of Sanlucar and is said to be responsible for the subtle differences in style between the two wines. It is also thought that the sea air contributes to the particularly salty tang in Manzanilla.

What's in a Bordeaux blend?

Many producers outside of Bordeaux refer to their reds as Bordeaux blends. What does that mean?

It will be a red wine that is a blend of two or more of the following varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

In the US, members of the Meritage Association can label their Bordeaux blend-styles as Meritage.

White Bordeaux blends will comprise Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and sometimes a dash of Muscadelle.

What is an 'aromatic' variety?

The following varieties are considered aromatic: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Muscat.

Why? Because they are distinctively and highly perfumed in comparison to other varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.

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