The Different Names Of Grape Varieties | What Do You Call It?

Harry Lambourne
23rd August 2023

One person’s Grenache is another person’s Garnacha. You may be aware of the different names of grape varieties across the world. However, there are likely some small regional names that you may not be aware of.

If you’re in a restaurant, you might neglect a listing or two because you’ve never heard of that grape variety. Yet, it may be one of your favourites! However, we’ll also take a look how a difference in name could suggest a complete difference in style.

So, let’s take a look at some of the different names of grape varieties.

Different Names Of Grape Varieties – Tempranillo

The primary focus of our article on the different names of grape varieties will be Tempranillo. Tempranillo is the lifeblood of Rioja. This particular red grape variety is the most widely planted grape variety in all of the three Rioja sub-regions.

It provides a nice level of tannin, body and alcohol to these wines as well as strong red fruit flavours, but outside of this region you can often find Tempranillo lurking in a variety of different disguises. Let’s take a look at some of them!

Even within Spain, Tempranillo doesn’t always keep the same name. For example, in across Catalonia you’ll see it called Ull de Llebre. You’ll see Tempranillo crop up in Priorat, Montsant and Pendès under this name. So, if you’re a fan of Tempranillo, then remember the name Ull de Llebre.

Penedès - Birthplace of Cava - Different Names Of Grape Varieties
Penedès – Here, Tempranillo is called Ull de Llebre

Then, it doesn’t stop there. La Mancha is the largest DO in the whole of Spain. Historically, much of the production is limited to simple table wine from the grape variety of Airén. As we’re looking at the different names of grape varieties our focus will be on Cencibel.

Airén has moved out of fashion, so winemakers have opted to plant Cencibel, (which you will know as Tempranillo). You’ll generally find it blended with international grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Expect to find some great value for money options.

The synonyms for Tempranillo just keep going! You’ll see it pop up as Tinto Fino and Tinta del País in Spain. Yet, as you move west and end up in Portugal, even more names arise.

Tempranillo is frequently used in the production of Port. Yet, they don’t call it Tempranillo. You’ll see it labelled as Tinta Roriz. If you move south from the Douro valley, then you will reach the Alentejo wine region. Here, Tempranillo is referred to as Aragonês.

Douro Valley with Vineyards
If you’re drifting down the Douro, then they call it Tinta Roriz.

What this speaks to is the fact that if you love Tempranillo, you better remember a few extra names. You may be missing out of some great wines if you don’t!

Different Names of Grape Varieties – Portugal Are Particular

Before we move onto our next particular grape variety, we’re going to go through Portugal in a bit more detail. No nation loves a regional name for a grape more than Portugal. Let’s take a look at some of their different names of grape varities.

We’ve mentioned Tinta Roriz and Aragonês, but this is just scratching the surface. For example, in Vinho Verde you’ll often wines made from Alvarinho. However, go back to Spain and these will be called Alvariño.

You’ll also get that classic light Spanish red of Mencía which is famous in the region of Rías Baixas under a new name. If you love Mencía, then look for Jaen in Portugal.

Different Names of Grape Varieties – Pinot Gris vs Pinot Grigio

While knowing the different names of grape varieties can help you find some new hidden gems, it is worth remembering just how different wines from the same grape variety can be. Perhaps, nowhere is this more clear than in the divide between Alsace Pinot Gris to Veneto Pinot Grigio.

Let’s take a look at two examples of classic wines from these regions. A Grand Cru Alsace Pinot Gris is going to exhibit wildly different characteristics to an Italian Pinot Grigio.

Alsace Pinot Gris are fleshly, almost oily wines, with a real chunk of body to them. You can also get them in off-dry styles which exhibit ripe notes of stone fruits, such as peach and nectarine.

However, compare it to classic Italian Pinot Grigio. These are light, fresh and bone dry, with a real punchy acidity that is far more unrestrained when compared to Pinot Gris. The tasting notes will be dominated by green and citrus fruit. You’ll often note apple, pear, lemon and lime.

Winemakers will opt to use the different names of grape varieties for a reason here. If an American winemaker is using the term Pinot Grigio, then expect the racier, citrus form of the grape variety. If someone from New Zealand opts for Pinot Gris, expect more body and riper flavours.

If you want to test this out further, then pick up a bottle of each and put them side by side. Take them through our structured guide to tasting and see just how different these wines are.

We hope you enjoyed this little look into the different names of grape varieties. If you’re a wine lover, then be sure to remember the different names of grape varieties – if you don’t, then you may be missing out on some new favourites. On the other side of this coin, if you love ‘Pinot Grigio’ don’t be upset when that bottle of Alsace Pinot Gris doesn’t hit the spot in quite the same way! The different names of grape varieties are there for a reason.

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