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What’s In A Name?

Chardonnay, Cabernet, Syrah, Shiraz, Pinot Noir… they must mean something, right? Ever wonder where the different wines got their names from? Probably not, but inspired by this video by Mental Floss, I'm going to tell you – starting with some excerpts from the video itself.

Let's start with wine, which originates from the Latin “vinum” – grape vine.

Sangria used to refer to anything made up with red wine, but now we know it as red wine & fruit. It was popularized in the US during the 1964 World's Fair in New York.

[custom_frame_right shadow=”on”]Mimosa[/custom_frame_right]Mimosa is named after the Mimosa flower, which is orange in color, like the drink! Mimosas are a great excuse opportunity to drink before noon on a Sunday. Simply champagne and orange juice.

Many old-world wines are named after the region where they originate. Especially well-known in this category is champagne from: Champagne, France. Regions generally share soil conditions, sunshine, rainfall, etc so if a wine is named after a region, the grapes grown there have these things in common. These factors, combined, is called Terroir, which is also used to characterize coffee, chocolate and other harvests.

Here in the US & other parts of the wine new world, we look at Terroir like the metric system and refuse to use it. Instead, our wines are named after the primary grapes used in the production of the wine: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. I say “primary grape” as the varietal on the label only has to make up a percentage of the grape used in production, between 75-90%. So if you go into the store and buy a California Cabernet, there may be 15% Merlot and 10% Malbec in there!

This difference is why when you walk into a wine store, European wines are stored by region, while US wines are typically categorized by varietal, or grape 🙂

  1. Question since you guys seem to know way more about wine than I. When picking a champagne for Mimosas, do you subscribe to the theory that there’s a good champagne for mimosas, or that any old champagne will do since you’re mixing it with a strong flavor like orange juice?

  2. There’s actually a lot of debate about that. You definitely do not want a really expensive champagne because the orange juice does cover up some of the flavor. On the flip side, if you are planning on having more than 1 or 2, you don’t want something that will give you a headache. When I make them, I usually just have 1 or 2, so I go with stuff that is about $8-10 a bottle. Most people say that something in the $15 range is perfect. And dry/brut! You can also add just a little bit of a liqueur to it to make it smoother–like a splash of Chambord or Grand Marnier.

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