Varietal designations are the names of the dominant grapes used in the wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Seyval, Riesling, Cayuga White, Pinot Noir, Baco Noir, Chancellor and Chenin Blanc are examples of grape varieties. A varietal designation on the label requires an appellation of origin and means that at least 75% of that grape variety is used in the wine.
Wine made from “Vitis labrusca” grapes – such as Concord – is an exception because of the grape’s intense flavor. These wines must contain a minimum of 51% of the grape variety, and it will be so stated on the label. If the label carries no percentage statement, the wine must contain at least 75% of the “labrusca variety.” Wine labels are not required to bear a varietal designation.
Other designations are used which identify the wine without label information on the type of grape used or where it was grown. Examples are Red Wine, White Wine, Table Wine.
Designations such as Chablis or Chianti indicate wines similar to the wines originally made in geographic regions indicated by those names. Chablis was originally a product of France and Chianti, a product of Italy. Such wines must include an appellation of origin to indicate the true place of origin.
Some wines are designated with distinctive names which are permissible only on specific wines from a particular place or region within the country of origin. For example, Pommard from France and Rudesheimer from Germany.