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Varietal Characteristics

In order to appreciate wine, it’s essential to understand the characteristics different grapes offer and how those characteristics should be expressed in wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel are all red grapes, but as wines their personalities are quite different. Even when grown in different appellations and vinified using different techniques, a�varietal wine�always displays certain qualities, which are inherent in the grape’s personality. Muscat should always be spicy, Sauvignon Blanc a touch herbal. Zinfandel is zesty, with pepper and wild berry flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon is marked by plum, currant and black cherry flavors and firm tannins. Understanding what a grape should be as a wine is fundamental, and knowing what a grape can achieve at its greatest is the essence of fine-wine appreciation.

Wine Spectator Maps of Wine Regions

Our handy visual guides to major wine-producing areas in Europe, the United States and the Southern Hemisphere

Look at almost any wine�s label, and you�ll find an indication of its origin, whether it�s as broad as an entire country or as specific as a particular vineyard. That�s because wines embody, and are shaped by, the places they come from�their distinctive combination of geography and climate.

Wine Spectator�s illustrated wine maps cover the whole world of wine. Love Cabernets from Napa Valley but not really sure where Oakville is? Confused by all the different appellations in Bordeaux? Let our maps be your guide to a deeper understanding of the wines you enjoy.

Maps by Richard Thompson, with exception of Alsace, Argentina, Austria and Oregon AVA maps by Henry Eng


A Pragmatic Approach to Using Wine Ratings

The 100-point wine rating system has become the benchmark of quality in the wine industry. If you have ever looked around for good value �90-point� wine, then you have used ratings. The system does rate some aspects of wine quite well, including production quality, but there are a few inconsistencies that you should know about in order to shop smart.

See how wine ratings work, know their shortcomings, and then get a few pragmatic solutions that will improve how you buy wine.