Why Do Wines Have Weird Names? A Dive into the World of Wine Nomenclature

Have you ever been browsing the wine aisle, overwhelmed by the seemingly endless array of names? From “Screaming Eagle” to “Two Buck Chuck,” wine names can be downright bizarre. But there’s more to these names than meets the eye. Understanding the reasons behind these unusual monikers can unlock a deeper appreciation for the history, culture, and character of the wines themselves.

The Two Main Categories of Wine Names: Grape Variety and Place of Origin

Most wine names fall into one of two categories:

  • Grape Variety: These wines are named after the primary grape used in their production. Examples include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. This approach is particularly common in New World wine regions like the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Place of Origin: In contrast, Old World wine regions like France, Italy, and Spain often name their wines after the specific geographic location where the grapes are grown. Examples include Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Chianti. These names reflect the unique terroir – the combination of soil, climate, and topography – that shapes the character of the wine.

Decoding the Mystery: A Look at Some Unique Wine Names

While the above categories provide a general framework, the world of wine names is full of intriguing exceptions and variations. Let’s explore some of the reasons behind these seemingly “weird” names:

  • Historical References: Many wine names pay homage to the history and traditions of the region. For instance, the Italian wine “Barolo” is named after the town of Barolo in the Piedmont region, where this Nebbiolo-based wine has been produced for centuries.
  • Legends and Folklore: Some names are inspired by local legends or folklore. The Spanish wine “Rioja” takes its name from the Rioja region, where the legend of Saint Millán, the patron saint of winemakers, is deeply rooted.
  • Animal Imagery: Animals often feature prominently in wine names, adding a touch of whimsy and personality. The Australian wine “Yellow Tail” is named after the yellow-footed rock-wallaby, a native marsupial.
  • Wordplay and Puns: Winemakers sometimes use wordplay or puns to create memorable and catchy names. The California wine “Ménage à Trois” playfully refers to the blend of three grape varieties used in its production.
  • Marketing Strategies: In a competitive market, a unique and memorable name can help a wine stand out. The California wine “Apothic Red” evokes a sense of mystery and intrigue, attracting attention and curiosity.

Beyond the Name: Understanding the Story Behind the Bottle

While the name may be the first thing that catches your eye, it’s important to remember that it’s just one piece of the puzzle. To truly appreciate a wine, it’s essential to delve deeper into its story:

  • Grape Variety: Understanding the characteristics of the grape variety used in the wine provides insights into its flavor profile, aroma, and body.
  • Region of Origin: Exploring the terroir of the region where the grapes were grown reveals the unique influences that shape the wine’s character.
  • Winemaking Techniques: The winemaking process, from harvesting to aging, plays a crucial role in the final style and quality of the wine.

By considering these factors along with the name, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the wine and appreciate its nuances.

Conclusion: Embracing the Eccentricity of Wine Names

The world of wine names is a fascinating tapestry of history, culture, marketing, and creativity. While some names may seem strange at first glance, they often hold deeper meanings and stories that enrich our understanding and appreciation of the wines themselves. So, the next time you encounter a “weird” wine name, don’t be intimidated. Instead, embrace the eccentricity and embark on a journey to uncover the unique story behind the bottle.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Why are some wine names so long and complicated?

A: Some wine names, particularly those from Old World regions, can be quite long and complex. This often reflects the rich history and tradition associated with the wine, as well as the specific vineyard or blend of grapes used in its production.

Q: Do wine names have any legal implications?

A: Yes, wine names are subject to various legal regulations and appellations of origin. These regulations protect the integrity of the wine and ensure that consumers are getting what they expect.

Q: How can I learn more about wine names and their meanings?

A: There are many resources available to help you learn more about wine names. Wine books, websites, and even wine shops can provide valuable information. Additionally, many wineries offer tours and tastings where you can learn directly from the winemakers themselves.

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One of two basic methods is used to name the majority of wines that you find in wine shops or on wine lists at restaurants:

  • For their grape variety; or
  • For the place where the grapes grew

When discussing the wine, that information along with the producer’s name forms the abbreviated name that is frequently used. For instance, the Robert Mondavi Winery produces a wine known as Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, which is named after the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. The Fontodi winery produces a wine known as Fontodi Chianti Classico, which is named after the Chianti Classico region.

Wines named for their grape variety

A wine that is named after the primary or only grape variety that went into making it is known as a varietal wine. Each country (and in the U. S. laws governing the minimum percentage of the designated grape that a wine must contain in order to claim the grape name (some individual states).

U. S. The legal minimum percentage of the designated grape, as set by federal regulations, is 75%. This implies that even your favorite California Chardonnay may contain up to 25% of another grape. With the exception of Cabernet, which may be 75 percent, the minimum in Oregon is 90 percent. In Australia, it’s 85 percent. Additionally, the minimum in the nations that make up the European Union (EU) is 85%

The majority of the time, varietal wine labels don’t specify whether other grapes are used, what kind of grapes they are, or what portion of the wine they make up. You only know that the wine has the designated variety present in at least the minimum amount required by law. Certain varietal wines are produced only using the grape variety that bears the wine’s name.

Understanding made-up wine names | Wine Unpacked

Why is wine called a wine?

This confusion stems from the fact that most wines get their names in one of two different ways: they are either named for their grape variety (the grape that was used to make the wine) or they are named for the region of the world in which the wine was made.

Why do winemakers name their wines?

In the majority of wine regions of the New World, the winemakers choose to name their wines after the sole or principal grape varietal that has gone into creating the beverage.

Why do wineries name their wines after regions?

The reason wineries from the Old World name their wines after regions is because Old World winemakers tend to feel that the place where the wine was made has as much, if not more, to do with how the wine will taste as grapes.

Where do wine names come from?

Wines falling in this category come from places like Australia, Chile, South Africa and the U.S., but different wine names typically come from the type of grape used. Exceptions with wine names occur from time to time. Some winemakers skip traditions and create names specific to their winery.

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