East Coast Wine Trail

East Coast Wine Trail
East Coast Wine Trail

Friday, 18 February 2022

A world of confusion when it comes to wine branding

 

Do you know your shiraz from your syrah; your zinfandel from your primitivo; your malbec from your côt; your rolle from your vermentino, your chenin blanc from your steen?

It sometimes seems as if the wine industry tries its best to confuse consumers with the use of different names for the same grape varieties.

Just because someone enjoys a glass of mataro doesn't mean they will also opt for bottle of mourvedre. They might not even know they are different names for the same grape.

This chain of thought comes about after I enjoyed a very impressive 2021 Nebbiolo Bianco from the Adelaide Hills made by Hesketh Wines. It was delightfully crisp and fresh, and good value for $24.

Not knowing anything about Nebbiolo Bianco I did some research and found it is better known as arneis - Holm Oak in northern Tasmania make a very fine example.

For centuries the arneis grape was used to soften nebbiolo grape harshness in the wines of the Barolo region, and it became known as nebbiolo bianco.  

The Australian wine industry revels in this style of chaos.

Australia, for instance, is the only major wine producer to make shiraz. In France, the US, South Africa and around the globe, the grape is generally known as syrah.

No one knows for certain why the name was changed. But it helped brand Australian offerings as a noteworthy style.

In Australia wines are generally labelled shiraz if they are big, alcoholic and often oaky. Winemakers use "syrah" to indicate their wines are more stylish and subdued. 

But does the consumer understand the distinction, or do Joe Public from Moonee Ponds and Jane Spratt from Bumcrack, Iowa, actually think they are two different varieties.

It is understandable that grape varieties may have different names in different countries. Thus trebbiano in Italy is ugni blanc in southern France. And albarino in Spain can be alvarinho in Portugal.

Thus we have pinot gris in Alsace, pinot grigio in Italy and grauburgunder in German-speaking nations. All the same grape, just made in different styles. 

We have petit syrah, or sometimes durif. 

But in Australia do we really need to use mataro, mourvedre and monastrell for the same grape?

If you really want to be confused and bemused, check out this document:

https://www.oiv.int/public/medias/2273/oiv-liste-publication-2013-complete.pdf

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