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!
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.