Wine names: Grapes vs Regions.
A brief explanation here -- wines are usually either named by their grape (for example, "Merlot", or "Pinot grigio"), or by the place where they are bottled (for example, "Burgundy" or "Bordeaux", which are from regions in France). Other than France, Italy and Spain (and probably lots of other countries) also have wines named by their origin rather than grape. We don't seem to have this in the US however, even though the USA produces some very good wine.
This causes some problems as there are overlapping wine naming systems. A wine from a region of France, Italy, Spain, whatever might be almost completely a particular grape, but it is not named after the grape, but it is named after the region. There may be many different location names for the same grape name. A huge mess, and a lot to remember.
Here are a few differences between grape named wines and location named wines:
- Region named wines are "protected" by government bodies, and thus are generally more expensive than grape named wines. They do not compete on a level playing field. For example, a "Bordeaux" wine, made of a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and perhaps Cabernet franc and Merlot, might cost more than a California "Cab". There are many factors here though.
- Wines named for grapes are generally bottled almost anywhere but France -- for example, California. Wines named after regions of France, are bottled in France (we would hope of course).
- Wines named after regions are often "blends" of several grapes. Thats perfectly OK.
- There is no reason to get upset about a blend of 3 good grapes. However, once you allow mixtures of grapes, there are a lot more variables. Both opportunity for good and bad.
- In a blend, it is much easier to "cheat" -- i.e. mix in a little bit of good grape with a lot of cheaper bad grape. Of course, one can cheat with single grapes as well by mixing in "good" and "bad" grapes of the same name. As it seems unlikely that anyone is spending much time on tracking cheating, who knows what is really going on.
May 3, 2021
, Timothy C. Hain, M.D.
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