Learning about wines and discovering the ones you like among the myriad of options is an adventure unique to the contours of your palate. While discovering which wines please your taste buds most is fun, with so many options to choose from it can also be a bit daunting. So to cut down on some of the complexity, we thought we’d focus this post on two red wines and two white wines that are called different things, but are actually the same. By shrinking the world of wine down just a little, hopefully it will seem more manageable.
Put simply, Syrah is the name used in the “Old World,” where it dominates in the Northern Rhône region of France, while Shiraz is the name used in the “New World,” where it reigns in Australia. While there are some generalized taste differences between the two, with the New World versions often described as more fruit-forward, this dark-colored, full-bodied red is made from the exact same grape.
While the names cannot be used interchangeably, Sangiovese is the type of grape that’s used to make Italian Chianti. Legally speaking, Chiantis can be 100% Sangiovese, or blended with other red grapes (often Cabernet, Merlot, or Syrah), as long as Sangiovese makes up at least 80% of the blend. When tasting a Sangiovese wine, look for high acidity and cherry notes.
Sauvignon Blanc/Sancerre/Fumé Blanc
The Sauvignon Blanc grape originated in France, but can now be found all over the world, perhaps most notably in New Zealand. Sancerre is a town in the Loire Valley of France where Sauvignon Blanc is grown to fantastic effect. In the United States, to counter the then sweet reputation of the wine, in 1968 Robert Mondavi coined the name Fumé Blanc to distinguish his less-sweet, oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc. In other words, Fumé Blanc was a marketing ploy to sell Sauvignon Blanc under a different name.
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
This is an easy one… it’s the same grape and wine, but in Italy it’s called Pinot Grigio and in France it’s called Pinot Gris. For those who know their Romance languages, the difference between the names really isn’t much of a difference at all, as Grigio and Gris both mean gray. Unlike the bright green grapes of other white wines, Pinot Grigio/Gris grapes are purple-gray-ish in color (as seen in the photo above), hence the name. With their citrus flavors and a bite of acidity, Pinto Grigio/Gris pairs well with white meat and fish.