Wine names can be somewhat confusing – a Burgundy and a Pinot Noir are the same sort of wine, so why are the names so different? This difference foxes many novice drinkers – and quite a few experienced ones as well – so let’s break it down.

The different types of names come from the fact that wines are named after either their grape variety or the region they’re grown in – Burgundy is a region, after all, not just a wine or a color.

The naming traditions also vary according to region, and winemaking regions are, largely, divided up into Old World and New World. The rule of thumb is that Old World wines take the name of the region and New World wines are named after the type of grape (or the main type of grape in blends).

New World names

With New World wines, the growers tend to name the wines after the main grape varietal that’s gone into the wine. If a wine uses primarily Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, then it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon. Even if the wine is made from 80% Cab grapes, with the remaining 20% being made up of one or more other varietals, then it’s still a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Old World names

Old World wine names are almost always named after the region in which they were made. So, if a wine was made in Bordeaux and is made from mainly Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, it’ll be called Bordeaux because the region of Bordeaux, being in the Old World, holds sway over the varietal.

Old World winemakers tend to use the name of the region rather than the name of the grape because these winemakers feel that the region has a huge impact on the end product. The sense of place – the sun, the winds, the soil type and the climate – is known as the terroir and this terroir all affects the taste of the wine when it’s finished.

Many people believe that a good quality wine expresses its terroir as well as the characteristic of the grape it’s made from, so a Cabernet Sauvignon made in France will taste a bit different to one made in Italy.