I had a synchronicity moment this week. I set up my blog topics ahead of time and had scheduled this bit about semi generic wine terms and our Port for today. Last week a reporter from our local paper, The Press Democrat, called to talk about this issue-and the article was published Sunday. Timing is everything as they say. On with the story: Not too long ago I attended a meeting with several wineries about the use of what we call ‘semi-generic’ terms for wine. We made our arguments in favor of keeping some of the terminology because ultimately it would mean a huge re-education process and renaming of some very familiar wine terms. We currently use Four Grapes Vintage Port for our dessert wine. From the 1930s through the 1960s we used semi generic terms like Claret, Burgundy and Chablis-which have all been replaced by their varietally-correct names of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And the word Port is up for discussion, again, with the European Union. They have allowed us, so far, to use it because we made this wine before the first ruling in 2006. Now we just might be stopped from all uses of semi-generic terms completely. I want you to imagine trying to re-invent the term Port so that when you are in the market for one from U.S. wineries you would know what kind of wine it is. Fortified Wine (too scary and not allowed as a labeling term). Dessert Wine (too broad). Proprietary term like Ort-Pay (unclear on the concept). Other varietals are easily identified as to what type of wine they are because the wine industry has done a huge amount of education-you know a Cabernet Sauvignon from a Chardonnay. Changing the name of our Port would make it difficult to market not only for us but for many of the other wineries who make it. Imagine, if you will, the following scene in our tasting room: this used to be called Port but now we are barred from using the term; we call it by the varietally correct name of Tinta Madeira, Tinta Cao, Souzao and Touriga Nacional. Here’s hoping we can work something out before it gets too drastic.
For more information, here is the full article by Bill Swindell.