Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's In A Name? Grape Confusion

There is a grape---and a wine made from it--- called Lemburger (or Limburger); the name is derived from the same town that is renowned for its highly odorous Limburger cheese.

No, the wine doesn't smell like the cheese. Actually, it's a nice, very drinkable, light to medium bodied red with a characteristic pepper-spice character. It is also made in the U.S., and I think the best is in Washington state. Kiona Vineyards, located in the Red Mountain, a sub-AVA of the greater Columbia Valley, makes an excellent version.

The same grape in Austria is called Blaufränkisch. “Fränkisch” refers to the “Franks”, or the Carolingian Holy Roman Empire, as opposed to “Heunisch” wines, supposedly derived from the more easterly Hun tribes, according to Julia Sevenich, who generally knows what she is talking about when it comes to things vinous and Austrian. (Julia is an amazingly talented and fiercely intelligent wine expert; an American who has been living in Austria for quite a few years, is a graduate of the Austrian Wine Academy, is currently engaged in the WSET Master of Wine Program, and has written a book---in German---on sensory analysis that is considered highly authoritative.)

This same grape is called Franconia down in northern Italy’s Friuli region (which was Austrian controlled until the end of World War I, and is still multicultural, to the extent that both Italian and German are authorized on wine labels). But don't confuse the grape Franconia from Friuli with the German region of Franconia (or Franken), where the dominant grape is Müller-Thurgau, a grape crossing made by a Professor Müller from the Thurgau Valley in Switzerland.
But this same Müller-Thurgau from the Franken in Germany is also called Rivaner in Austria, because for years everybody thought it was a cross between Riesling and Silvaner (Ri-vaner; get it???), two other grapes also grown in Franconia/Franken. Turns out, it wasn't.

There is, however, a grape that is a crossing between Riesling and Silvaner---but it's a diiferent grape, it's in Germany, and it's named Rieslaner!

Now all the experts are sure that the Muller-Thurgau is actually a cross between Riesling and a grape called Madeleine Royal. It's okay if you don't know that, because few people do outside of ampelographers and geeky lovers of obscure grape varieties.

But don't get any of these confused with the Austrian Rulander...because that's neither Riesling, nor Silvaner, nor Rieslaner. It is, in fact, Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio, it turns out, has lots and lots of names in different places, but that's a different grape for a different story.

Are we confused yet? Most people are at this point.

1 comment:

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