Wine drives newspaper editors crazy.
Pursed-lipped panjandrums who preside over the Associated Press Manual of Style strive to bring order to cacophony of American English. They declare what is correct and what is verboten in American newspapers.
And then there is wine, where chaos reigns.
By AP standards: “Wine names for grape varietals, such as chardonnay and shiraz, are not capitalized. Wines named for regions, such as Champagne or Chianti, are capitalized.”
Seems straightforward, but there are devils in the details. Chardonnay is a village in France where they make chardonnay—that’s how the grape got its name. Pouilly and Fuissé are villages in France where they make chardonnay, but they call it Pouilly-Fuissé. So, chardonnay from the village of Chardonnay is lower case, while the synonym for chardonnay made around Pouilly and Fuissé is capitalized.
Syrah-shiraz comes from Iranian city of Shiraz, where Shirazi wine is produced.
Prosecco is especially problematic. It is a village in northeastern Italy, a generic term, and the official DOC (Controlled Denomination of Origin) area where the wine is made in the provinces of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. It once was a grape variety. To protect their brand, in 2009, Prosecco winemakers changed the grape name to “glera,” named the wine “Prosecco,” and had the region declared a DOC. So Prosecco is a village, an area, a DOC, a specific type of wine, and once was name of a grape.
The grape durif (lower case) was created in the 1860s by French botanist François Durif. The grape Thompson seedless (upper case T) was introduced in the U.S. by viticulturist William Thompson. Go figure.
Champagne is sparkling wine made in Champagne region of northern France, also loosely used as generic term, also is the name of French village that is not in the Champagne region. And so it goes.
Almost all major wine magazines, websites, and books capitalize grape names to avoid tumult of confusion when trying to parse grape, varietal, village, region, DOC, and style of wine. You may notice a Babelic scramble in this column as flummoxed editors and over-extended editing algorithms try to cope with boisterous rabble of wine terminology. Proffer them sympathy, not scorn.
Last round: Wine is proof God loves us.