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Snooth User: CuriousWine

Wine Words: From Argentina With Love

Posted by CuriousWine, Jun 6, 2008.

Alright, I'm not actually in Argentina. This post isn't about malbec or torrontes. It isn't about steak or the Tango, either. Well, kind of. See, this post is about how I'd describe these things as being of and from the magnificent country of Argentina.

I admit an affinity for describing language as it is supposed to be used rather than how it actually is used. I've been down this road before. But something jabs at me brain when someone tells they had the most wonderful Argentinean (sometimes spelled Argentinian) wine. Why do I heave and haw? I do so because Argentinean is a noun and not an adjective. An Argentinean is a person from Argentina; anything else from that great nation should be described as being Argentine. Proper usage follows as such, "When on vacation, I met the most fascinating Argentinean, together we drank Argentine malbec." Sure, it’s not the sexiest of sentences, but it is a correct one.

I am fully aware of how nitpicky I'm being, but that’s my job. So next time someone tells you how much they dig Argentinean malbec, slap them in face and then tell them how to properly describe their beloved malbec. Just don't tell them it was all my idea.


Reply by Philip James, Jun 8, 2008.

Wow, you know when you stop and point it out to me, I recall that you are correct, but i'm slovenly and follow the crowd - so ive being doing it wrong for a solid 10 years at least...

It reminds me of this thread, where a few of us were trying to figure out how many grape varietals there are in the world and someone jumped in and pointed out that we should have been referring to them as varieties:

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Jun 8, 2008.

This kind of information is so helpful. I'll reform, I swear!

Blog comment by rae, Jul 23, 2008.

Discover the splendor and magnificence of the wines of Argentina. Learn more about their culture, wine regions, geography and cuisines through Cool, cool site!

Reply by pmeconi, Mar 6, 2009.

As an Argentinean I have to thank you for this post :-)

PS. That entry previous to this seems a bit of a spam, too many ads for my taste!

Reply by IKAL 1150, Oct 16, 2009.

CuriousWine, great stuff! Any opinions on the pronunciation of the word "nuclear"? Seems another one folks get wrong quite often.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 16, 2009.

One of my pet peeves as well.

Argentine. It's easy!

Reply by GregT, Oct 16, 2009.

Yes but if you're picking nits:

"something jabs at me brain when someone tells they had the most wonderful "

Do you mean "jabs at MY brain?" Or was that just a Cockney expression that crept in?

". . .someONE tells me THEY had. . ."? How do you use a plural pronoun with a singular antecedent?

Reply by IKAL 1150, Oct 16, 2009.

i was always confused by "falling rock" signs... too ambiguous

Reply by Charles Emilio, Oct 16, 2009.

No problem here.. I just call it vino argentino

Reply by penguinoid, Oct 16, 2009.

To carry on nit-picking, you note in the weblog post you link to ( )

'Of course, you can also call a grape variety a “cultivar,” but most people will have no clue what you’re talking about unless they’re botanists.'

Really, you *should* refer to them as cultivars, as they are cultivars, not varieties. I'm as bad as everybody else, I tend to call them varieties for simplicity's sake but it's not really correct. Any gardener should know what cultivars are, too...

Reply by GregT, Oct 17, 2009.

In Linnaeus's system, the first word or genus, is a noun, and the second or species is an adjective describing the first.

Two different systems have been devised by two separate commissions to describe species and hybrids, but both are fundamentally related to the system devised by Carl Linnaeus. The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN or the Botanical Code) describes how species found in nature are named with latin binomials, and is regulated by the International Botanical Congresses. The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP or Cultivated Code) deals with those plants that have entered cultivation by man, including cultivars of species and natural hybrids, and grexes and cultivars of artificially-produced hybrids.

Varieties often occur in nature and most varieties are true to type. Cultivars are not necessarily true to type and in fact cultivar means "cultivated variety" so cultivar was selected and cultivated by humans.

There is the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants that has established rules.

For example, some people would name MERLOT as follows:

Vitus (from vine) is the genus, the species is vinifera, the variety or cultivar would be Vitis Vinifera var. Merlot.

But remember that according to the Iowa Dept of Agriculture (which should know about plants)

"Varieties and cultivars also have differently naming conventions. A variety is always written in lower case and italicized. It also often has the abbreviation "var." for variety preceding it. The first letter of a cultivar is capitalized and the term is never italicized. Cultivars are also surrounded by single quotation marks (never double quotation marks) or preceded by the abbreviation "cv.". For an example of a cultivar of redbud, consider Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' (or Cercis canadensis
cv. Forest Pansy). . ."

Merlot however, is a cultivar and not a variety, because it's propagated by grafting or rooting.

And according to the Royal Horticultural Society:

cultivar - 'A cultivated variety', an assemblage of plants arising and/or maintained in cultivation distinguished by an characters and which, when reproduced either sexually or asexually, retains its distinguishing character. . . A cultivar is named with a cultivar (or fancy) epithet, a word or words in a vernacular language (unless published prior to 1959, or a botanical (Latin) epithet already established for a taxon now deemed to be a cultivar) formed according to the precepts of the Code. The epithet is printed in roman characters, not italic, takes a capital first letter and is enclosed in single quotation marks. For example, Hosta kikutii 'Green Fountain'. A cultivar may not be clearly assignable to a single species, in which case the generic name and cultivar epithet only are used in combination. This form is also sometimes used for reasons of economy.

By analogy, you refer to your neighbor's poodle, which is a kind of dog in the same way that merlot is a kind of grape. And within that grouping itself, you have different subgroups.

The problem is long-standing usage and the mash-up between what starts out as a nicely organized naming convention that runs into reality. Linneaus started out well, then people decided he was wrong in some cases, then they reversed. E.g. tomatoes.

There have been long threads on the dif between varietal and variety already, and I'm sure that nobody, even on this board, is going to start refering to grape "cultivars" rather than varieties.

And if they're not going to do that, why pick one of the most obscure points to take a misguided stand over? (Like ending that last sentence with a preposition?) Words that have passed into common usage for a hundred years or so should be dealt with by common usage rather than by attempting to fit them into some sort of new or anachronistic naming convention long after they've established themselves.

Thus, if you don't capitalize the names of dog breeds, cat breeds, etc., why would you capitalize the grapes? The Germans like to do that but in English we stopped doing that a few hundred years ago.

However, because sometimes plants get their own name for commerce or some other reason they end up with their own names. While you don't capitalize the word "tomato", if it has a specific name like Early Girl or Bloody Butcher or Zebra, those get capitalized. So you don't refer to cherry tomato in caps but you refer to Baxters Bush Cherry Tomato in caps.

Or rather than using merlot as a generic class - and that is not in the scientific sense, but in the commonly understood sense, you refer to merlot without a cap. Unless you're referring to Merlot FPS 27, which is a specific and named version of it.

Reply by penguinoid, Oct 17, 2009.

That's correct. If you want to be painstakingly correct, you probably should refer to Merlot as /Vitis vinifera/ L. 'Merlot', but that's really only going to be appropriate in maybe an academic paper. As far as I'm aware, the use of cv. to indicate a cultivar is now deprecated.

I mainly just mentioned it as this is more-or-less a thread about nitpicking, ie pointing out minor errors. I still refer to grape cultivars as grape varieties myself, partly out of habit and partly as this is now the convention and it's quite handy if people understand what I'm saying. But I try to keep in the back of my head that they are cultivars, as otherwise I'd seriously confuse myself.

With regards to ending a sentence with a preposition, I've heard arguments both ways and I'm not really convinced that it is bad grammar...

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