Definition - What does Red Varietal mean?
In the context of wine classification, red varietal refers to the color of the skin of wine grapes and is a way to classify different characteristics between grapes. The color of red grape skins comes from the production of anthocyanins; a genetic mutation in white grapes turns the production of anthocyanins off.
Red varietals contain high levels of tannins and produce many different types of red wines and are often used to make white wines. The color, sweetness and flavor profiles of red varietal grapes cover a broad spectrum. Some of the more well-known red varietal grapes include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Pinot Noir.
WineFrog explains Red Varietal
Understanding differences in red varietal grapes helps to gain an understanding of the different characteristics in red wines including; color, mouth feel, sweetness, acidity and flavor profiles. Red varietal grapes give their color to a wine by leaving the skins with the pressed juice, how long the skins are in contact with the juice determines the color of the wine - from rose to deep purple and every shade in between.
When you know that a wine is made using red varietal wine grapes, you can expect a certain mouthfeel as well as specific flavors and aromas. Red varietal wine grapes typically begin fermentation with the skins, seeds and stems, this not only gives the wine color but also allows the tannins time to release into the wine. Red varietal grapes also typically have more pronounced flavor profiles, which leads to the perception that red wines are rich and bold. While the red varietal Cabernet is known for bold flavors of pepper, dark fruit and oak, Merlot is known to be quite smooth with balanced flavors of cocoa, vanilla and ripe fruit.