Just yesterday I was asked to proof an entry for a client in an upcoming book.
There it was:
Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah
Well, when one of my fellow bloggers was nudged by David W. Gates of Saintsbury for using varietal versus variety, I had to send David an Email asking what he meant about correct word usage.
David explained that while at UC Davis, during an enology class, he learned the difference between the two words, and therefore has to take issue when a wine professional uses the word incorrectly.
Proper English usage:
- Variety (or cultivar) is a noun (e.g., Chardonnay is a Burgundy variety.)
- Varietal is an adjective (e.g., Chardonnay has crisp fruit, varietal Characteristics.)
Since most writers, marketers, etc. aren’t classically trained in enology, we have no way of knowing – until someone who’s schooled in enology and is a stickler for proper grammar comes along. Who, besides David and I, would write, “It is I who carries the torch.” The world is full of, “It’s me!” people.
Now, every time I see the word “variety” used incorrectly, I realize how pervasively it is used in its incorrect form.
As I wrote to this author, “Very few of us know the difference between the correct and incorrect usage. Those of us who do, usually see it used incorrectly and evaluate accordingly.”
Are you one of us?
If so, Welcome to the Variety Society… I just love cult groups (that aren’t religious based… that’s another story best written by others)!