Variety v varietal, the Daily Mail and the deck chairs on the Titanic

In Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the  Blefuscudians favoured opening their soft-boiled eggs at the big end, while the Lilliputians preferred the little end. Or was it the other way round? All that matters is that the choice of end really mattered sufficiently to the leaders of these countries for them to go to war over it.
Yesterday, a number of well respected wine writers argued online at some length over the use of the terms “variety” and “varietal”. The abuse of these words is apparently of some importance. (To them at least.)



My own view on the subject – in common, I discovered, with Italian wine specialist Janice Cable (@insideiwm) in New York – is of intense apathy. But for those who disagree with me over this, I’d merely a) suggest that they note the spelling of Burgundy’s red wine grape in the news piece below…

…and b) note the following results of research we (DoILikeIt?) did with visitors to the 2010 London Wine Show.



Note that we sidestepped the “varietal” v “variety” issue by asking these people (who’d paid £15 to attend a wine fair and might thus be thought to have an interest in the subject) whether they thought that Moulis, Guigal etc were a “region”, “brand” or “grape”.

If newspaper journalists and sub-editors don’t know how to spell Pinot Noir and if more than one in five apparently otherwise well-educated London wine drinkers think that Moulis and Guigal are grapes, and a similar number think that Malbec is a brand, maybe, just maybe, sweating over the use of variet(y)/(al) is a little like worrying about the look of the Titanic’s deck chairs.

2 comments

  1. Anonymous · ·

    As you say Robert, straight out of Swift. The W. Blake Gray piece is actually 7 months old, but I plugged it again after bumping into some of the debate. Wine's the new football. More people arguing about it than enjoying the game.

    Tyrone: @winesonlyadrink

  2. Very good, as ever, Tyrone

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