In show business, names are as interchangeable as romantic partners. Reginald Kenneth Dwight? Try Elton John. Chaim Witz? That's Gene Simmons. And Norma Jean Mortensen? Marilyn Monroe. Let's not even start talking about Prince.
Did you know in the world of wine names can be interchangeable too? It's usually geographical, but sometimes just to mess with you, there's more then a few Norma Jean's on the shelves of your local bottle shop or on a wine list, moonlighting as Ms Munroe.
Get to know these varieties and choosing your next drop get's a lot easier.
Here's our guide to de-coding those strange sounding names. The general rule? Start by following the first letter.
Let's get going with Grenache. This bolshy grape is one of the most widely planted in the world. So much so that September 23rd is now known as Grenache Day. It's big in the Barossa, big in McLaren Vale, but elsewhere, the Spaniards love it too. In the land of jamon and bullfights, it's called Garnacha. Both wines have distinct softness, evolving to a medium weight and a lipsmacking finish. Look for wines grown as bush vine due to the lower yields and more intensity.
Gee. Grenache and Garancha got game.
Ask for a Shiraz anywhere in the world but Australia, and you might get a quizzical look in return. Shiraz, as we call it, is considered a style of it's own; bold and rich and with alcohol levels above 14.5%. Syrah is the same smack-in-the-face grape. Typically, it has a slightly lower alcohol, and the flavour leans away from the rich jammy fruit of Shiraz and towards pepper and spices.
So. Shiraz. So similar, Syrah.
Sometimes blended with Garancha and Syrah is their friend whose names start with M. Mataro is the traditional name for it in Australia but if you see Mouverdre, as it's known in France, or Monastrell, as it's known in Spain, you know you're drinking the same hearty wine known for plump fruit wrapped in a matrix of those mouth puckering things called tannins.
Mataro = Mouverdre = Monastrell. Mmm.
On the white side of things, the letters game is over sadly. But it's not rocket science.
Crack open a Fume Blanc and that familiar aroma will hit you. Asparagus, grass, tropical fruit, the overwhelming need to eat camembert immediately. This is a Sauvignon Blanc by another name.
Fume translates to smoke (thinks fumes... or plumes) and here in Australia this name is often used for Sauvignon Blanc that has spent time in oak barrels. The oak lends the wines greater depth and slight toasted and smoky characters.
It doesn't matter what name it wears, good times live in every bottle. So next time you get the chance slurp a Syrah and suss out the differences for yourself.
Words by David Bowley, Vinteloper
A big thanks to David Bowley, winemaker and Chief Everything Officer of Vinteloper for contributing this post and for decoding what's in our glass!