Wine Varietals Are NOT Proper Nouns...

‘No’ on Cabernet, Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, or Merlot…

‘Yes’ on Bordeaux, Champagne, Madeira, Burgundy, or Sherry…

Come to think of it, I really, REALLY like wines that ARE proper nouns! flirtysmile

And yes, I’ve been guilty of ‘capping’ varietals.
Just because others have, as well. [cheers.gif]

Barry, just for (grape) variety’s sake, can’t we just pretend we’re in Germany where all nouns are capitalized? champagne.gif

I’m not arguing with you, but tell that to my iPhone! It recapitalizes varietals after I have typed them.

I’ve heard that it’s okay to acidify or capitalize, but not both.

Also not ok to call them varietals! You use a grape variety to create a varietal wine as I understand it. :wink:
Anyway what about PN?

It’s no wonder y’all are confused if you don’t know the difference between variety and varietal.

At any rate, whether or not these nouns are capitalized is a matter of style. Newspaper types don’t like to capitalize anything – they are lazy, and their style guides show it. Common sense would suggest that if a noun is regularly used as a formal name for something, it is a de facto proper noun and should be capitalized.

There is a parallel situation with the common-language (e.g., English) names of birds. The English names for all bird species in places like the US and the UK have been agreed upon for many years and really are proper names for bird species (and in many cases English names are more stable than scientific names for a given species). They are thus capitalized by people who know what they are doing. This produces the happy result that mention of a Yellow Warbler unambiguously identifies a particular species of bird, whereas mention of a yellow warbler could mean that species, or it could mean Prothonotary Warbler, or perhaps Wilson’s Warbler, or Kentucky Warbler, or… Newspapers and other organs that have no idea what the names of birds mean insist that the English names of species should not be capitalized. Oh well. Publications run by people who know what they are doing capitalize English names of bird species.

And a quick google turns up this justification for capitalizing the names of varities and cultivars:

Nice post, David. Very nice.

David - Interesting stuff about the birds, but I would quarrel with your argument that the grape names are proper nouns. I’m not sure they refer to “an individual person, place, or organization.” They strike me as describing categories.

You are really arguing that wine lovers should follow ornithological or botanical style rules instead of those used by newspapers or lay people. As you say, it may be useful among specialists to make clear that they mean a particular, strictly defined bird species. But that’s a specialized style.

There are lots of different sets of style conventions. The British have different punctuation conventions, for example. Within journalism, the New Yorker has a very conservative style, spelling out numbers no matter how big (making it almost impossible to comprehend articles where there are a lot of figures) and it uses serial commas (a comma before “and” if there are three or more conjuncts), which is less common but avoids ambiguity in some contexts.

Newspaper style (Associated Press, N.Y. Times, the British press, too) disfavors capitalization and favors brevity. E.g., it is “President Obama” but “the president.” Even acronyms give way if they have five or more characters (e.g., Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization = Ebitda not EBITDA). Numbers from 10 on up are presented as numerals.

These are designed for clarity and ease of reading. Visually we “trip” over capitals.

There’s nothing lazy about it at all. The AP Stylebook runs more than 300 pages of precise rules developed over a century. Dow Jones’ and Bloomberg News’ online style guides are voluminous. A lot of thought has gone into them, and big news organizations regularly disseminate instructions and examples of how the rules apply, why, and why new rules are being added. The aim is to make things readable.

When it comes to readability, I’ll take those rules over a set developed for a narrow audience and purpose such as ornithology or botany.

Just because we don’t reply to all of these doesn’t mean we’re not laughing our butts off :wink:

There’s nothing more fun than drinking a nice glass of wine while reading a post on correct grammar usage. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz…


Actually, all plant variety (not varietal) names should be capitalized. Hence, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc, just as it’s Minneola tangelo, Granny Smith apple, Haas avocado, etc. But note that it is Pinot noir, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, etc. Basically, you do not capitalize French and Italian words denoting black, grey, and white when applied to grape cultivars.

I have a headache . . .

“Wine Varietals Are NOT Proper Nouns”.
Barry you lost me at using the word varietal for variety. So, I’m thinking there is no possible answer to your query.

This begs the question: Could this thread only be more perfect if someone misused “to beg the question?”

Seems inconsistent to state that it is a matter of style, and then to argue that “people who know what they are doing” always capitalize. The majority rule seems to not capitalize, for readability if nothing else.
Phil Jones


Wow! No caps on the “noir” or “blanc.” This is really getting arcane.

I agree that Haas should be capitalized, like McIntosh apples and Muller-Thurgau, because they are adapted proper names. If you can verify the existence of Monsieur Cabernet, I’ll give you that, too. :wink:

Off topic. David Breitstein says hello Mike.