When is a wine not a grape?

Written by Scott


When is a wine not a grape? the obvious answer is "when it is a wine". Confused? Read on.


Today I am reminded of a conversation I overheard a while back. While sitting in a restaurant waiting for my dinner companion to join me, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two gents at the table next to mine.

The basis of the conversation was that along with his wife, one of them refused to drink any wine that was blended. For the two of them, it had to be a single varietal, as all blends were inferior wines in their eyes. He then went about listing some of their favorites: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot (according to him, pronounced “Mer-Lawt”) and Valpolicella.

This last wine actually caused me to chuckle out loud, which quickly brought quizzical glances from both men and was followed by me pretending that I somehow found something amusing in the menu I was reading.
Now the mispronunciation of wines is something that I have gotten used to, but when I hear a person attempting to be elitist about the wines they drink, all the while having incorrect assumptions about said wines, I can’t help but be amused. So after I composed myself, I got to thinking about wine names and regions. Which brings us to this week’s thoughts:

When is a wine not a grape?

Now we’re not talking about fruit wines here, what we’re looking at is wines that use a regional designation or proprietary blend as their names. While many wines names are actually the names of the varietal grapes used:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and so on and so on and so on.

Many others are named for the regions where they are produced. Here are some of the more common wines from the latter category:

Red Wines
Bordeaux: Named for a region of France. May include the grapes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec or Petit Verdot.
Chianti: A region of Tuscany in Italy. The grape used is Sangiovese.
Valpolicella (and Amarone): produced in Veneto, Italy. Contains three grape varietals; Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella.
Beaujolais: From the Burgundy region of France. 100% Gamay Noir.
Burgundy: Also from the Burgundy region, but containing only Pinot Noir grapes.
Rioja: A region of Spain. The wine is made using the Tempranillo varietal.
Cotes du Rhone: Produced in the Rhone Valley in France. Uses Grenache and Syrah grapes.
Barolo: From Piedmont in Italy. Made from 100% Nebbiolo.

White Wines
Vouvray: From the Loire Valley in France. Made with Chenin Blanc.
Bordeaux: Also from France. Contains both Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Burgundy: Once again, France. Uses Chardonnay grapes.
Chablis: Another Burgundy born Chardonnay.
Pouilly-Fuisse: Once again, one last Burgundy Chardonnay.
Cotes du Rhone: From the Rhone Valley: Produced from Marsanne, Viognier and Rousanne grapes.

Other wines
Champagne: Produced in the Champagne region of France. These sparkling wines can only pick from three varietals; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Sauternes: Dessert wines produced in Bordeaux, France. They contain Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Port: While produced in many countries worldwide, the wine originated in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Even though there are many many grape varietals used in its production, the most common are; Tinto Roriz (also known as Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca and Tinta Cao.
Sherry: Produced near the town of Jerez in Spain. The grapes dominantly used include; Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez.

There are many more wines’ names that have a story behind them, but we’ll save that for another time.


Taking each day one drink at a time

Scott @ Vintage

Last Updated on Aug112013