British supermarket chain Sainsbury's found sales plummetted when it was forced to change a wine's name from Shiraz to Syrah.

Under EU regulations, Shiraz is not a permitted synonym for Syrah, although they are the same grape. Sainsbury’s buyer Justin Howard-Sneyd MW was ‘astonished’ when he was told two wines, Wild Pig Shiraz and Reserve St Marc Shiraz were illegally labelled.

Sainsbury’s head of wine Allan Cheesman told decanter.com it was due to a bureaucratic anomaly that Shiraz was not put on the appellation list in 1973. He said the company would put pressure on the French government through the Wine and Spirits Association, to have the rule changed.

He added, ‘It is important for the consumer – if they want Shiraz then we should give it to them. If it breaks a few rules, so be it. Rules are rarely made to promote sales.’

Cheesman was not surprised by the fact that sales almost halved when the company changed the name of the grape to Syrah. ‘Shiraz will always sell better than Syrah. It is very much in vogue – like Pinot Noir.’

Written by Adam Lechmere20 June 2002