It is usually quite easy to identify the varietals contained in new world wines, such as those from Australia, North America or South America, and some European countries such as Germany. These producers often display the varietal or blend as part of the label. On the other hand some countries and regions, such as France and Italy, do not follow the same practice.
In France the wines are usually identified by the region in which they are grown. The same is true for some German, Italian and Spanish wines. This can make it very confusing for you when trying to find a certain type of wine for your drinking pleasure. The good news is that both France and Italy label their wines in a consistent fashion so once you understand their naming conventions it is easier to determine the varietals the wines consist of. The effort to understand these naming conventions, which are buried deep in their wine making history, will be well rewarded as it will provide you with great drinking pleasure for years to come.
In both France and Italy the grapes grown are unique to each geographic region. By taking note of which regions are renowned for the type of grapes you enjoy, you will be able to select one of these wines with more certainty than by just grabbing a bottle off the shelf randomly, or worse yet, avoiding them altogether. From there you may find a particular winery or two or ten that you have a craving for.
In the weeks ahead I will tackle unravelling the mysteries many of the European wines and decipher the meaning of what appears on their labels.