WINE 101 > ABOUT VARIETALS
What is a varietal?
Varietals are grape types, such as Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. In many areas of the world a wine is identified by its varietal. This section is not so much for browsing as a source of information about a grape variety to which you can link from a particular wine you might you might find intriguing but about which you'd like a little more information. For that reason this section also includes place names which are the other common method of identifying a wine.
What is a clone?
Well, to make matters more complex but ever more interesting for those so inclined and I grant you there are only a few of us, many varietals have several clones or variations. Its estimated for example that the varietal Sangiovese has 250 clones. These variations produce mostly subtle differences in the wine and their affinity for particular soils or microclimates influences the selection a vineyard manager makes in planting a new vineyard or replanting an old one.
Okay, then what's rootstock?
Grape vines have many pest but none more destructive than Phylloxera, a louse that attacks the plant's roots. In a very short time in the 1860's European vineyards were virtually wiped out. From the same source as the problem, America, came the solution; a resistant rootstock. Since that time rootstocks have been selected not only for their resistance to pests but also, like clones, their affinity to particular soils and their ability to control certain vine problems, over-vigor for example.
Simple, you decide what varietal from which you want to make wine. Knowing what microclimate and soil type your varietal of choice prefers, you locate a suitable vineyard site. Given the specifics of the site you chose the rootstock and clonal selection. Propagate vines of the selected rootstock. Propagate vines of the specific clone. Now cut the tops off the rootstock and the bottoms off the clone and graft them together. Voila!