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California's Main Varietal Wines

Part of the California Wine For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You can probably find more than a dozen distinct types of varietal wine from California if you scour the shelves of a good wine shop. A handful of wines are by far the most popular, most widely available, and best-known varietal wines from the Golden State:

Wine Name Color Taste
Chardonnay White Usually dry or fairly dry; full-bodied, smooth-textured; flavors can include ripe apple, tropical fruits, butter, or toasty oak
Sauvignon Blanc White Fairly dry; medium-bodied; pronounced aromas and flavors that can include white fruits (pear, apple), citrus, herbal notes, or fresh grass; usually no oaky character
White Zinfandel Pink Medium-sweet; smooth-textured; fruity flavors such as berries, melon
Cabernet Sauvignon Red Dry; medium- or full-bodied, with some firmness of texture; medium-intense flavors that can include dark fruits, herbal notes, and smoky oak
Merlot Red Dry; medium- or full-bodied with fairly soft texture; medium-intense flavors that can include plum, tea leaves, chocolate
Pinot Noir Red Dry; fairly full-bodied, with silky texture; pronounced aromas and flavors generally of red berries, dark berries, cherry
Syrah/ Shiraz Red Dry; fairly full-bodied with smooth texture; flavors include juicy red or dark fruits, sometimes with earthy, spicy, or herbal notes
Zinfandel Red Dry or fairly dry; medium- or full-bodied, sometimes with firmness of texture; flavors of berries and herbs
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