“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

It was William Shakespeare who famously penned that line. While it’s true that no matter what you called it, wine would be delicious. It wouldn’t hurt to understand what words like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux mean.

Most European wines are classified by region, so any time you come across a bottle of Bordeaux, Rioja or Chianti, those are called “appellations” which means a specific geographic area where the grapes for a wine were grown, also which grapes went into the wine and how they were vinified. Here in America you’ll find appellations like Napa Valley, Santa Barbara and Willamette Valley.

The tradition of wine appellation is very old. The oldest references can be found in the Bible, where wine of Samaria, wine of Carmel, wine of Jezerel are mentioned.

Other types of wine are simply named after the grapes used in the fermentation.

Merlot’s name comes from the Occitan word “merlot”, which means young blackbird. The naming came either because of the grape’s beautiful dark-blue color, or due to blackbirds’ fondness for grapes.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France The word “Sauvignon” is believed to be derived from the French sauvage meaning “wild” refers to the grape being a wild vine native to France, and also it’s ability to thrive in harsh climates.

Now you know.