Wine 101: Decoding Old World Wine Labels
What’s in the bottle is “All about that place…’bout that place…’bout that place”
Have you ever looked at a wine label, seen a bunch of words you couldn’t pronounce, and thought to yourself, “I wonder what kind of grape THAT is”? More than likely you were curious, but not willing to take the risk on it and moved over to the standard bottle of cabernet, merlot, chardonnay, etc…that you recognized (and could annunciate). It’s a shame, really, because you might have passed over a real gem.
In all likelihood, you also wound up buying a “New World” wine of the same varietal. What??? No, it’s not possible…that other bottle had some crazy name I’d never heard of! True, it may have been some name you’d never heard of, but that’s because it’s the name of a village or region, not the name of the grape that produced the wine. You see, naming wines for the PLACES where they’re produced, rather than for the grape used to produce them is one key difference between “Old World” (primarily European) and “New World” (domestic, Chilean, Australian, etc) wines.
Bordeaux is one of my favorite examples. I absolutely love to listen to someone rail against merlot or red blends and then espouse their love of Bordeaux…which is a blend…of merlot and cabernet. Burgundy wines are particularly tricky as many of them are labeled for their specific place designations within the region. For example: If you saw a bottle of “Marsannay” (located in the Cote de Nuits, within Burgundy) the only way to know what’s in the bottle is to know that it is a place within Burgundy, and therefore due to regulation must be either chardonnay or pinot noir.
Is your head spinning yet? This is only a small sampling of the multitudes of place specific labels you could encounter. I hear you already: Hold the phone…are you telling me I have to memorize all this minutia just to be able to know what’s in a bottle of wine??? Well, yes, that’s one option. Or, thanks to technology and these new fangled fancy phones you could ask the magic Google. Or you could pop into your local wine shop and I’d happily bore you with all manner of factoids (or I might also have to ask the magic Google!). I think my greater point is, that there is a wide world of amazing wine out there, and you should do yourself a favor and step away from your comfort zone and give them a try.
Right now we’re pouring some fun wines by the glass in the wine bar to get you started on your journey to new wines, like an Italian Soave, Portugese vinho verde & red blend, French Cotes du Rhone, and a Spanish red & dry rose. Stop in for happy hour Monday – Friday from 4-6pm to try the Spanish red & dry rose for only $3 a glass, browse our bottle selection and find your next wine adventure!
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