How to Understand Wine Names, a Layman’s Guide

Wine Grapes

It can be hard to figure out what exactly you’re buying or ordering based solely on the name of a wine. For instance, you might not expect that a Burgundy and a Pinot Noir would be made from the same grape. But in fact they are—the Pinot Noir grape. This confusion exists because European wines are named according to different rules from those used for wines made anywhere else.

New World: Wines Named for Grapes
Most of the wines grown in the United States, South America, and Australia are varietals,  which means that they’re named after the variety of grape they contain. Varietal wine naming makes sense, since the greatest determining factor of a wine’s characteristics is the type of grape from which it’s made. With varietals, you know what you’re getting: if you’re buying a Pinot Noir, you know it contains Pinot Noir grapes.

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