Deciphering Old World Wine Names
Heard a lot of wine names but wondered what they actually meant!? Here’s a simple guide to
famous wine names.
Old World wines are often referred to by their regions. These famous region names indicate a
particular type or style of wine. Read on and learn a little more about the wines you are already
familiar with and discover some new ones too!
Bordeaux: The famous red wines from Bordeaux in France. Blends created from Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. White Bordeaux wines are blends of Semillon,
Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle and other local varieties.
Burgundy: Red & White wines produced in Burgundy, France from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Chablis: It is the northern most wine district of the Burgundy region in France, producing
Chardonnay wines in a dry style that are renowned for the purity of their aroma and taste.
Chablis is described to often have a "flinty" or "steely" note and has on average much less
influence of oak in comparison with the white wines from the rest of Burgundy.
Pouilly-Fuissé: It is a dry white wine made from Chardonnay. It is pale and refreshing, often
quite delicate, and often shows a clear oak influence. This appellation (AOC) lying in the
Mâconnais sub-region in Burgundy is also known by the same name and is its best known part.
Champagne: Sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region in France from Chardonnay,
Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier grapes.
Hermitage & Cote Rotie: Famous Syrah dominant wines from Rhone Valley, France
Chateauneuf-du-Pape: Possibly the most famous wine from Southern Rhone, it is a Grenache
dominant blend with 12 other permitted grape varieties.
Gigondas: A sub-region and AOC in the southern Rhône Valley making only Red wines and
small amount of Rose wine mainly from the Grenache grape that is blended with other grapes
like Syrah, Mourvedre & Cinsault. It doesn’t produce any white wine.
Pouilly-Fumé: An AOC in the Loire Valley producing dry white wine produced purely from
Sauvignon Blanc. At maturity, these grapes are coated with a grey bloom, the colour of smoke
— which explains why Pouilly winegrowers talk of "white smoke" to describe the type of vine or
the wines made from it. “Fumé” also refers to the smoky bouquet (the renowned "gun flint
aroma"), bestowed by the terroir vineyards of Pouilly/Loire.
Vouvray: This French region and AOC in the Loire Valley is dedicated almost exclusively to
Chenin Blanc, producing all types of wines from dry to sweet and sparkling wines. With the
naturally high acidity of Chenin Blanc, Vouvrays from favourable vintages have immense aging
potential with some examples drinking well into 100 years of age.
Vin de Pays: Cheaper bulk wines produced in the South of France.
Chianti: Red wines made in the Chianti region of Tuscany with Sangiovese making up at least
80% of the blend. Other permitted grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah and local
varieties that were part of the traditional, original blend – Canaiolo (red) and Malvasia Bianca
Super Tuscans: With their origin rooted in the restrictive practices of the Chianti region, Super
Tuscans were created by wine makers who thought they could produce a better quality wine if
they were not hindered by the DOCG regulations. They are red wines created using Sangiovese,
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.
Prosecco: Dry or extra-dry sparkling wine produced in the Veneto and Fruili regions of North
Eastern Italy from Glera grapes. The best Proseccos come from Valdobbiadene and Coneglino
regions and are known as Prosecco Superiore.
Asti: A sweet sparkling wine made from Moscato Bianco grapes in the Piedmont region around
the towns of Asti & Alba in Italy.
Barolo: This DOCG red wine produced in the northern Italian region of Piedmont is made from
the Nebbiolo grape and is often described as one of Italy's greatest wines. Like most Nebbiolo
based wines, is known for its light colour and lack of opacity.
Barbaresco: Another DOCG red wine from Italy’s Piedmont region which too is made from the
Nebbiolo grape. Even though Barolos and Barbarescos are made in neighbouring communes,
(only 15 kilometers from each other) the wines have some distinct differences. Barbaresco
tannins tend to soften quicker, hence making them more approachable to drink sooner than
Barolos but they don’t age as long as traditionally made Barolos. Barbaresco production is only
35% that of Barolo.
Brunello: Brunello di Montalcino is a red Italian wine produced in the town of Montalcino
located in the Tuscany wine region. Brunellos are made 100% from Sangiovese and are to be
aged in oak for 2 years and at least 4 months in a bottle before release. In 1980, it was awarded
the first DOCG designation and today is one of Italy's best-known and most expensive wines.
Amarone: A typically rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the
Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara varieties. It was given DOCG status in 2009.
Vinho Verde: A young Portuguese red, white or rose wine made a variety of grapes; with up to
20 permitted grapes varieties. Vinho Verde is not a grape variety but the name of the region.
Port: Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto) is a Portuguese fortified wine produced
exclusively in the Douro Valley in Portugal. It is typically sweeter, richer, heavier, and possesses
higher alcohol content than unfortified wines. Often served as a dessert wine, it also comes in
dry, semi-dry, and white varieties.
Sherry: A fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez, Spain.
Sherry is produced in a variety of dry & sweet styles with different version aged for different
periods of time. The 4 styles are Manzanilla, Fino that are lighter styles and Amontillado and
Oloroso that are darker heavier versions.
Rioja: This Spanish red wine is produced using mainly the Tempranillo grapes in the La Rioja
region. A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging. In the past, it was not
uncommon for some bodegas (wineries) to age their red wines for 15–20 years or even more.
Today most bodegas make wines that are ready to drink sooner with the top wines typically
aging for 4–8 years.
Cava: Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine, most of which is produced in Catalonia. It may be white
or rose. An important part of Catalan and Spanish family tradition, it is often consumed at
important celebrations and parties. Cava is becoming increasingly popular around the world as
an economical substitute to Champagne.
Sekt: German sparkling wine often made using the Riesling, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris and Pinot
noir grapes. 90% of Sekt is partially made from base wine imported from Italy, Spain and
France. Deutscher Sekt is made exclusively from German grapes, and Sekt b.A. only from grapes
from one of the 13 quality wine regions in Germany.
Eiswein(Ice wine): This is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen
while still on the vine. The sugars do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more
concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of
more concentrated, very sweet wine. Although native to Germany, it is also produced in Canada
and the United States and is quite expensive.
Tokaji: Hungarian wines from the region of Tokaj, noted for its sweet wines made from grapes
affected by noble rot.