These are two terms that confuse a lot of people when it comes to wine, and often that’s because they are correctly used interchangeably. The easiest way to think about these two words is that one, variety, is a noun; and the other, varietal, is an adjective.

“Variety” is used to refer to different types of grapes. Grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Barbera, Sauvignon Blanc, and so on.

“Varietal” is used to refer to a wine that has been made from one grape variety . For example, a Napa Cabernet is a varietal wine.

Most often, you see varietal wines from countries such as the U.S., Chile, Australia, and New Zealand. We refer to these countries and regions as “New World” wine regions. In these regions, a producer that makes a wine from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes will call it Cabernet Sauvignon. On the other hand, in “Old World” wine-producing regions like France, the same wine produced on the Left Bank of Bordeaux is called “Bordeaux.”