I say variety, you say varietal, let’s call the whole thing wine

Friday, 17 December, 2021
Pix, Rachel Signer
If you’ve ever heard a sommelier mention their favorite varietal, or discuss how Pinot Noir is a difficult varietal to grow, and a little song has played in your head — you mean variety, not varietal — then you’re already aware of an extremely common misuse in wine lingo: confusing variety and varietal.

In case you’re wondering, “variety” is the noun, and “varietal” is the adjective. So Merlot is a grape variety, but a wine that’s made from Merlot is a varietal wine.

But even wine writers are guilty of erroneously using varietal as a noun. Some people know it’s not correct but use it anyway. In her book “Wine. All the Time: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking,” Marissa A. Ross writes that “Varietal is a word people in wine use for a single type of grape.” Below, she elaborates: “*Some people say the plural varietals and use varieties. I feel there can be varieties of anything and take poetic license with varietals to make it wine-grape specific.” 

Ross is far from alone. Many people use varietal this way, although it is best used to describe a wine made from a single grape: a varietal wine. 

How did an adjective begin masquerading all around the wine industry as a noun? And should wine lovers worry about this slippage, and attempt to correct it, putting the words back in their original places? Or do we — tomato, tom-ah-to — call the whole thing off? 

Click HERE to read the full article.