wine styles: unfortified
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The difference between Wine Styles and Wine Variety

Today, my wine loving friends I am going to discuss the difference between wine styles and a varieties. I totally cringe when I see/hear/read people using the wrong  wine terms to describe certain aspects of wine. For example on a number of blogs and articles people talk about wine styles and refering to the different varieties of wine. Its not correct my friends, as you will read below you learn the differences.

Wine Styles:

There are only TWO wine styles. That’s it! Nothing more and nothing less. They are classed as fortified and unfortified wine. It is that simple!

Wine Styles
Fortified Wines has extra alcohol added

Fortified Wine:

This is when extra distilled alcohol is added to the wine. Alcohol by percentage should be a minimum of 15% and not exceed 22% by volume in South Africa. These examples would be your Sherry, Ports, Jeripigo and Muscadel’s. 

Wine Types
Unfortified wine is wine being made using natural fermentation


It means that wine is produced by natural fermentation. The wine has completed the malolactic fermentation. It has a residual sugar that does not exceed 4g/l. The main difference between fortified and unfortified is that no extra alcohol is added. According to South African legislation, natural wines must have an alcohol content of at least 4.5% t but less than 16.5%.

Grape Varieties vs Grape Varietal:

Yes, folks once again there is a difference.

A way to rememer is the following:

The word variety refers to the grape variety, grown and used to make the wine such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage etc. 

Varietal means they are made from a single variety of grape and by  by  legislation it must contain 85% of the stated variety. For example, if a wine states Shiraz, it has to have 85% of the shiraz grape – the remaining 15% could make up any amounts of different red varieties. I love reading the labels, and love it when wine farms mentions what percentage of what wine has been blended. A way to remember is thatThe word varietal is an adjective, and refers to the wine.

Variety = Noun (which refers to the grape variety, grown and used to make the wine)
Varietal = Adjective (refers to the wine. It describes a wine that is made from a single or dominant grape variety.)

Wine Styles: Unfortified

In South Africa we have about 80 Grape Varieties. I will be discussing two of them each month in far more detail.  Here are a list of unfortified wines:

White Wine:

Dry/Off-Dry (wines like your Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc/Semilon)
Grand Cru (is usually an extremely dry white wine)
Blanc de Blanc (wines that are made from White Grapes Only – and often used to describe the Method Cap Classique)

Semi/Sweet Wine:

Stein ( Semi-sweet white wine, normally consist of a blend. It is not to be confused with Steen (an another name for Chenin Blanc)
Late Harvest (wines are made from grapes harvested later in the season and therefore naturally sweeter. Alcohol content must be a minimum 10%. The residual sugar content is at about 20g/l.)
Natural Sweet (is a wine where the residual sugar content 20g/l or more)
Special Late Harvest (is a lighter style of ‘dessert’ wine. Grapes has to be harvested at a minimum of 22 degrees Balling. Sugar content must not be less than 20g/l. The minimum stipulated alcohol is 11% by volume. 
Noble Late Harvest (wines show a noble rot (botrytis) character.  They are made from grapes which has been infected by the botrytis cinerea fungus. This is a mould which, in warm, misty autumn weather, attacks the skins of ripe grapes and causes the evaporation of most of the juice. You could say the grapes almost becomes like a raisin. The sweetness and flavours become more concentrated as the grape continues to go “rotten”. These grapes be harvested at a minimum of 28 degrees Balling and the residual sugar must reach 50g/l or more.)

Blanc De Noir:

(is a very special way of making wine which is pretty amazing my wine loving friends. It means white (blanc) from black (noir). What makes this special is that it is made only from red-wine varieties. The grapes are crushed and the juice is kept in contact with the skins for just long enough to extract just the right amount of pigment to get a pale pink hue. This wine then is made the same way as one would make white wine.)


(These wines are often referred to as ‘blush’ wines. The colours of the wines can range from the the palest salmon to the deepest pink. They are made in one of two ways:
1 –  a blend of red and white wine grape varieties; or
2 –  from red-wine grapes only, which in the similar way as the Blanc de Noir is made.
The skins are allowed for a very short period only any thing from 6 – 24 hours, all depending on the colour the winemaker is wanting to achieve.  In South Africa, rose wines are also made from Pinotage. Pinotage-Rose will have a distinctive Rosé-wine colour.

Red Wine:

(These will be your wines like Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and so forth. The wine is made from a natural way of fermentation and the sugar residue should not exceed 4g/l.  Red wines colours can vary in colour from light red to deep red or purple. (We will discuss colouration in more detail in the near future)

Nouveau Wine:

A word used for fruity young and light red wines, usually made from the Gamay Noir grape by means of the carbonic maceration method, which originated in France. Nouveau wines are bottled soon after vintage.

Light Wine:

(These are Wines under 12.5% alcohol and contain 25% lower in kilojoules than your normal wines. Picking the grapes earlier in season when the sugars and flavour compounds are lower. The wines is further manipulated by removing more of the alcohol content in cellar. But let us be honest here friends, I personally find these wines are bland and have a very watered down taste. We all know that water is the best way to fulfill your daily fluid needs.Let us face it friends,  after a really tough day at the office, there is nothing more stress relieving than putting your feet up and savouring on a good decent glass of vino. I would rather recommend that you find a wine that is naturally lower in alcohol for example a Riesling.

Flavoured Wines:

Fruit fusion wine which comprises a range of different fruit infused wines, and the alcohols by volume is normally between 9.5% and 11%. It has only recently hit the South African market, and hasn’t really taken off like it has in overseas.

Sparkling Wines:

Methode Cap Classique ((MCC) is the term used to describe sparkling wines made by the classic method of undergoing second fermentation in the bottle. There are quality standards that all producers have adhere to for example it must be a minimum of 9 months on the lees, and the bars of pressure, which are all mandatory in order to use MCC on the label.)
Carbonated sparkling wines (this is a process where the bubbles are injected into the wine by means of carbon dioxide (pretty much the same process for making fizzy soft drinks).
Charmat (second fermentation takes place in a tank which is then bottled under pressure.)

So my wine loving friends, I hope this has enlight you if you didn’t know any of the above. Now you can go wine tasing and sound like a complete profession. 

Please feel free to comment, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any future articles. I know if the next few days there will be some amazing recipes….

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