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What’s in a Name? The Reasoning Behind the Name on your Wine Label

May 10, 2018

To many in the U.S., the name that appears on a wine label is simply there to identify the grape variety found in the bottle. However, the wine naming process goes far beyond that. There are two main ways that a wine gets its name: either from the grape variety (the type of grape used to make the wine) or from the region of the world where the grapes were grown.

How a wine name appears on any given label depends on whether the producer follows Old World or New World traditions. Typically, Old World wineries label their wines based on region, while New World vintners name their wines based on grape variety.

New World Wine Label Names

Most wine regions of the New World name their wines to identify the grape variety used to make the beverage. In other words, if Pinot Noir grapes were used to make the wine, the wine is called Pinot Noir. This goes for blends as well; a blended wine is typically named for the dominant grape variety in the bottle. So, that Cabernet Sauvignon you love may actually be a blend of mostly Cabernet, mixed with other red grape varieties.

Old World Wine Label Names

Wines made in the Old World generally get their label name from the region where the grapes were grown. Take, for instance, a wine made in the Bordeaux region of France. While it might contain 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon (giving it the name Cabernet Sauvignon in the New World), it is instead called Bordeaux. 

Old World winemakers believe the location where the grapes were grown has as much—if not more— influence as the grape variety on the final wine. This idea, known as terroir, describes the intangible combination of factors—soil, climate, slope and sun exposure, among others—that make a vineyard and the characteristics it imparts in a wine truly unique.  Old World producers believe you can taste a wine’s distinct terroir just as well as you can taste the characteristics derived from the grape variety. Based on this notion, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux will taste very different from a Cabernet Sauvignon made from an Italian vineyard, which is why Old World winemakers prefer to name their wines based on region.


Here are some California Wines we think you’ll love: 

Bernard Cabernet Sauvignon

Sanctuary Chardonnay

Jekel Pinot Noir