Is it Cabernet Sauvignon or cabernet sauvignon?
The New York Times
don’t capitalize the names of grape varieties but practically everyone else does. What, then, is the correct usage?
This may seem a little geeky or pedantic but it’s important for anyone who writes about wine. I seem to revisit this question every couple of years without satisfaction. This year, however, I believe I finally have the answer thanks to some online research and a series of emails with Tyler Colman AKA Dr. Vino
Since neither Tyler or I have the book, the assumption is that the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage
says not to capitalize grape variety names. Thus not knowing what they base their no-caps decision on, we turned instead to Wikipedia
to investigate naming conventions in botany and found some interesting things:
from the Variety (Botany)
In viticulture, what is referred to as "grape varieties" are in reality cultivars rather than varieties according to usage in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, since they are propagated by cuttings and have properties that are not stable under sexual reproduction (seed plants). However, usage of the term variety is so entrenched in viticulture that a change to cultivar is unlikely.
Ok, since it’s actually a cultivar, I went to the Cultivar
page to see how they’re named:
A cultivar name consists of a botanical name (of a genus, species, infraspecific taxon, interspecific hybrid or intergeneric hybrid) followed by a cultivar epithet. The cultivar epithet is capitalised and put between single quotes: preferably it should not be italicized. Cultivar epithets published before 1 January 1959 were often given a Latin form and can be readily confused with the specific epithets in botanical names: after that date, newly coined cultivar epithets must be in a modern vernacular language to distinguish them from botanical epithets.
Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans'
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Aureomarginata' (pre-1959 name, Latin in form)
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Golden Wonder' (post-1959 name, English language)
Pinus densiflora 'Akebono' (post-1959 name, Japanese language)
The technically correct nomenclature for a grape variety would then be: Vitis vinifera
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’. It would be unnecessarily pedantic to include Vitis vinifera
each time we write about grape varieties so what then is the proper way to condense the name? Should they be capitalized or not?
Based on this research, I’m going to continue to capitalize grape varieties. If it’s good enough for Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson, Robert Parker, Maynard Amerine and Emile Peynaud, it’s good enough for me.
Tyler (a die hard New Yorker), however, isn't swayed by this evidence and will continue to not capitalize grape names along with the Times.
What do you think? Cabernet Sauvignon or cabernet sauvignon?
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