I am giving up on what has become a totally fruitless quest ending in a miasma of heartbreak and despair; I hereby renounce my Sisyphusian efforts, and will no longer roll this impossibly heavy boulder of writing wisdom up the mountain of populist adversity, only to have it come heaving down to crush the vulnerable bones of my hopes time and time again.
Not that I feel overly dramatic about it or anything.
What is the heart of this painful linguistic matter? The brilliant and terrible rays of sunlight on the wax wings of my personal flight of Icarus?
It’s the rampant misuse of the word varietal.
To quote Inigo Montoya, “Joo keep using daht word. I donah tink it means what joo tink it means…”
I have seen and heard this term misused by winemakers, public relation professionals, journalists, bloggers, those who pen the copy on the back of wine labels (that one is particularly annoying), book authors – you name it.
And its effect on me is not unlike the sound of linguistic fingernails being raked across the chalkboard of my wine-writing soul. It’s almost as bad as confusing contractions (e.g., “its” vs. “it’s”). Almost. So it’s not the worst writing sin I’ve seen in the wine world. But it’s damn close.
I give up trying to convince everyone to use the words variety and varietal properly.
From now on, just do whatever the hell you want.
Joe Roberts, as usual, has something to say. Today, he’s chosen to set aside his battle to make wine lovers understand that the words variety and varietal are not freely interchangeable when describing wine.
I too have taken up this quest, and I despair somewhat that Joe has given it up, though I get the feeling he’s just needing to take a break in order to regroup and devise a new strategy. At least this is what I tell myself so that I don’t give up the crusade myself, pack up my tents, and limp home.
An interesting alternative might be to come up with a social media strategy that raises awareness of the distinction between the two words. Make it fun, make it educational, and before you know it people will be describing the varieties found in some of the best varietal wines in the world. It’s just that easy.