ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I recently found a claret that had Syrah in it. I was under the impression that a claret is a red Bordeaux-style wine, and thus not having Syrah. What gives? Are there any regulations on the usage of “claret” on the label?

—Steve, Chicago

Dear Steve,

No, the term “claret” has no legal meaning in the United States, and there are no regulations on its use. Historically, the word was a British term referring to red Bordeaux, and spiritually, that’s most often how it’s used these days—to refer to red Bordeaux-style wine.

You’re correct that Syrah is not one of the traditional red Bordeaux grapes (which are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot). These days, when I see a wine labeled as claret, I imagine the winemaker is paying homage to the idea of blending grapes to make a rich red, even if it means having to tinker with the blend and include non-Bordeaux grapes in the mix.

—Dr. Vinny


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