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Oct 27, 2008 11:22 PM

Variety vs Varietal

I just saw in my sidebar a video named "Oyster Varietals". Now I've been seeing and hearing the word "varietal" used forever when it comes to wine. My long time understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) is that a "varietal wine" referred to a wine consisting (chiefly or in total) of one variety, as opposed to a blend. That was until the popularity of the term "varietal blend". In both instances, the word is used as an adjective, and appropriate.

Lately, I've been seeing and hearing the word used as a noun, as in the example of "Oyster Varietals" or people just one off-ing the term as in "It's a varietal" (referring to something other than a wine). Now maybe I'm being picky but I'm just not sure what of make of it.

The jaded part of me wants to dismiss the usage as pseudo-snooty. Wherein the word "varietal" has, through it's long history of usage in the vino vernacular, osmotically attained some quotient of fancy. Subsequently, authors hoping to capture that see where I'm going.
Now I'm not attacking the example given, specifically, as I understand the artistic license afforded to titles. However, as I've said, it is a growing phenomenon. What's so wrong with "variety" or "varieties" anyway? Oyster Varieties. You decide.

Your thoughts please...

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  1. Here's a link to the oyster article, and you'll see that I left a note two weeks ago to the Editors pointing out the error in usage.

    Here's the entry in the Oxford Companion to Wine for "varietal" and its misuse,
    I agree with this position.

    1. I am a vineyard manager, and it drives me crazy when people ask me what varietals I am growing. A wine can be varietal, but a vineyard has varieties (or more properly, cultivars) of grapes growing in it. Oyster varietals is even worse!

      1 Reply
      1. re: dkenworthy

        Looks like we killed this topic, apologies to the OP. Yeah, I thought about introducing cultivar when I posted but decided not to get into it.

        I looked at the piece again and the writer confuses species with varieties. But listening to the video, the subject made that mistake himself, so I guess the writer just repeated it.