The Mystery of the Grape – What’s in a Name?

Good morning to all of my wine enthusiasts. I’d love to share with you how to read a wine label in response to your interest in the 5 S’s of wine. I’ve had a few provocative questions since from that post, so I’d love to share more information.

Jake from Project Toad wants to be able read the wine list when he starts meeting women through online dating. My brother is studying wine to be knowledgeable for business functions. Beverly – heck, she wants to get more out of her tastings 😉

Today, let’s start walking through the label. Knowing the label may help you feel more confident when picking out a bottle for a hostess gift, a date, or even business dinner.

Personally, I think the most interesting part of the label lies in the name of the wine (not to be confused with name of the vineyard). Traditionally, European wines are named for their appellations (growing regions) while American wines are named after the varietal (the kind of the grape).

For example, if you would like to bring a French wine to your hostess for a Thanksgiving dinner, you might look for a Red Burgundy. The Burgundy region of France is famous for the Pinot Noir grape. This varietal is rich yet delicate, so the Pinot Noir is a lovely with turkey.

If, however, you prefer to bring along an American wine, perhaps look for a Pinot Noir from Oregon. See how the same grape is named differently based on the appellation? The wine growing regions bring different characteristics based on many factors: the soil, the humidity, the amount of sun exposure, and even the slope of the hills in the regions.

Learning the characteristics in the European regions that drive the naming may be more than we want to tackle with Thanksgiving being so close. Let’s take a peek instead at the American wines. Read the label for specific growing regions.

A wine that lists Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley as the region will be more concentrated than a wine that names Northern California as the appellation. This is because to list Napa as the region, the grapes need to all be grown in that region.

However, a Northern California wine may use grapes from a few growing regions within Northern California. The more generic the label’s appellation, the wider the growing region. Make sense?

Now the real lesson – while the wine from Napa may be considered a higher quality of wine due to concentration, this does not mean the bottle of Cabernet that you grab from Northern California is any less enjoyable.

Remember, wine is subjective. Paying $50 for a bottle doesn’t guarantee that you will like the wine any better than paying $15 for a bottle. With a little bit of information, you can start to make informed purchases. Take your time to get to know what you like. You can find good labels in every price point.

And for Jake or anyone else wanting to learn about wine to enrich your dating life, don’t waste the date by throwing out every tidbit you learn about wine. Don’t feel threatened by the guy one table over who sniffs and says,

“Oh Buffy, how reminiscent this Merlot is of that Cuban cigar you brought me from your adventures in Panama. The tobacco does mingle so perfectly with the wild blackberry nuance.” He is showing off!

Instead, offer a quick comment on the wine, and then spend your time learning about the man or woman sitting across from you. After all, that person should be the most interesting topic at the table if you hope to get a second date.

Cheers,

Heidi Lee

2 thoughts on “The Mystery of the Grape – What’s in a Name?

  1. If someone said that to me, he’d be wearing the wine. Best thing people can do is enjoy what they like and drop the pretence. There are so many different types and so many different tastes. You are quite right to suggest people follow their own inclinations.

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