You say Gris, I say Grigio: Grapes with different names
October 1st, 2012
10:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

I noticed the other day that Herbert Lom had died. Now, some of you may be wondering who Herbert Lom was, and what the hell he has to do with wine. The answer to the first part is that he was a longtime character actor, probably best known for playing Peter Sellers’s boss in the Pink Panther movies. The answer to the second - a somewhat oblique answer - is that Herbert Lom’s given name was Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru.

For some reason, this rather surprising fact made me think about grapes (it also made me think that any actor with a name like Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru would do well to change it as soon as humanly possible if he hopes to be cast in anything).

The truth about wine grapes is that they rarely have one name. Pinot Noir, for instance, may be Pinot Noir to you and me (and to the French), but to the Austrians, it’s Blauburgunder. To the Italians, it’s Pinot Nero, and to the Croatians, it’s either Burgundac Crni or Modra Klevanyka, though I’m a bit vague on why it’s sometimes one and sometimes the other.

In any case, here’s a handy guide to some of the more common of wine’s identical twins:

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
In France, it’s Pinot Gris, in Italy, it’s Pinot Grigio and everywhere else in the world, it’s whichever you want to call it - but winemakers usually pick one or the other based on the style of their wine. Pinot Gris tends to imply a richer, more luscious character, based on the wines of France’s Alsace region. Light, sprightly (and occasionally anonymous), Pinot Grigios take their cue from the wines of Italy’s Friuli, Veneto and Alto Adige regions.

Basically everyone on the planet calls this grape Syrah except the Australians, who refer to it as Shiraz (a stubborn bunch, the Aussies, albeit great fun to hang out with). The latter name is a nod to the grape’s supposed origins near the city of Shiraz, in Persia, a tale that is unfortunately not the case, but that doesn’t mean the Aussies aren’t sticking with it. But then they’ve also stuck with Vegemite, which as far as I can tell from the one time I tasted it, means they’re all as mad as hatters anyway.

Yes, Zinfandel and Primitivo are exactly the same grape. But both of them are really Crljenak, a Croatian grape that came to our shores in the early 1800s, and to the vineyards of Puglia a bit before that. Now, it’s easy to understand why Crljenak lost out in the name sweepstakes - lean across the bar and say, “I’ll have a glass of the Crljenak” and the bartender will think you sneezed on him. On the other hand, in the late 1800s, Zinfandel was also sometimes known as Black St. Peters, which sounds to me like something Wyatt Earp would lean across a bar and ask for, i.e., very cool. It was a sad day when the grape-naming potentates retired that one.

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. blkwdow

    Barefoot Moscato! Comes in both red and white and both are fan-freakin-tastic if you like a sweet wine!

    October 3, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Madibo

      I just found out BAREFOOT is made by Kendall Jackson wineries , It was on a TV's UnderCover Boss

      October 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  2. dalbert

    Carlo Rosi , 5 liters $9.95, best wine ever and no bs

    October 2, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
  3. Cornholio

    We call it Boone's Farm

    October 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • palintwit

      Teabaggers drink Everclear

      October 2, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  4. palintwit

    My name is Sarah Palin
    I am a piece of sh!t
    I have a daughter Bristol
    She is a little twit

    October 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Gregg

      Your momma must be proud.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  5. bcs89

    i was at a seminar one time where they talked about a french winemaker whose label had a 'shiraz' sticker slapped on it by the distributor in new york – the winemaker was absolutely livid, but the sales apparently skyrocketed – i guess that's a much easier sell at costco than 'cotes do rhone' or whatever the guys great grandfather would've preferred to call it

    October 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  6. Tequila Mockingbird

    What an incredibly odd way to begin a wine article. The first 2 paragraphs have nothing to do with the topic.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Courtne, that flatware image just tahugt me a great lot right click, save! Also, I love the nail polish IDing at the end of your posts.It's cool that you're keeping your blog original and most importantly, totally Queen Shmink!

      October 14, 2012 at 3:36 am |
  7. Ana

    In Brazil it is Shiraz as well.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  8. charliecopley

    Raised around Italians, I call it Moscato. Raised around Germans, my father calls it Muskateller or Muskatel, Lol =D

    October 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • LadyBee

      Muskatel was the cheap sweet wine you bought in the liquor stores...$3 a bottle...

      October 3, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Fajar

      Neil-I would be curious to see if you can find it. can help. Also, Xandria posetd and intersting article on Trade Joe's with several selections around that price. I think there are TJ's in Texas? Yes? Or else, the perennial Cost Plus Imports. Alsways an interesting source. Thanks for reading!

      October 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  9. mre2

    We sure fuss a lot about grape juice!

    October 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  10. Zyzz


    October 1, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
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