I recently had a guest on my wine tour that had just returned from Europe. She enjoyed the trip immensely but was confused at the way Europeans name their wines. What exactly goes into a Chianti or a Bordeaux blend? In New World wines such as the United States, the label will frequently tell you what variety that bottle holds. Is the wine Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay... just read the labels to find out. However, in Old World wine classification, the label tells you WHERE the wine is from and it is expected that the consumer knows what varieties are grown in that region. It can be very complicated, but to simplify and clear up some of the confusion of Old World wines, here are a few examples of what some of your favorites may contain:
Brunello di Montalcino-100% Sangiovese. Brunello is the local name for Sangiovese.
Chablis - Made from 100% Chardonnay
Champagne – Is normally made from a single variety or blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Pinot Meunier.
Chianti – Mostly Sangiovese with some small amounts added of indigenous grapes and some Internationals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Merlot or some white grapes. It can also be 100% Sangiovese.
Rioja – Red Rioja is mostly a Tempranillo blend with added amounts of Garnacha, Carignan and Graciano.
Bordeaux- Red Bordeaux is primarily a blend of 2-3 grapes from the area. The main grapes are, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, however Malbec, Carmenere and Petit Verdot are also allowed.
Burgundy – Red Burgundy is mostly 100% Pinot Noir with some southern areas being Gamay driven.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape – This can be a blend of anywhere between 13-18 varieties including some white wine. Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Counoise, Cinsault and Roussanne are among the most famous.
Vouvray – Chenin Blanc based which is known as Pineau de la Loire in this area.
I hope this helps to take some of the mystery out of European wine labeling. Cheers!
This week’s wine of the week in my CSW class was Vouvray or Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. Vouvray comes in a variety of styles from very dry to very sweet and also sparkling. I chose the Vignobles Lacheteau 2015 Vouvray. This wine was an AOP, the highest category of quality of wine in a French region. The alcohol content was 11.5% and priced under $10.
The color is a clear pale straw.
The aroma was clean with no off odors. It showcased tropical fruit, floral notes and honey.
The palate had light to medium sweetness, with medium acidity and a light to medium body. It offered notes of minerality, tropical fruit, pineapple and honey.
It had a nice long finish at around 35 seconds
Pairing and Comments
Though this wine was a little sweeter than I normally like, when paired with a creamy, salty beef it cut down on the sweetness and was enjoyable. The wine saw no oak and was aged in stainless steel. For under $10 at Trader Joe's, definitely a good buy.
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.