Grape Mistakes

Since the domestication of the common grape vine (vitis vinifera) some 8,000 years ago, humans have carried it with them to six of seven continents, pushing the limits of the plant's natural tolerances for climate and soil. In the process, the species has split into an enormous family tree containing almost 10,000 distinct varietals, of which several hundred are commercially significant today. Naturally, in all that time and with all that variation, there was bound to be some confusion about which grape was which, leading to decades, sometimes centuries of misclassification. This Wednesday, April 3 from 4pm to 7pm we'll be exploring some of the most famous examples of these grape mistakes.


  • Brunello/Sangiovese – Brunello first appears in records in the 14th century, and for the next five hundred years it was thought to be a distinct varietal that only grew on one hill in Tuscany. In the late 19th century, however, it was conclusively shown to be a clone of Sangiovese, which is grown throughout Tuscany, and now in many other parts of the world. Tradition is a powerful force however, and Montalcino producers continued to label their best Sangiovese wines as Brunello, and in 1980, Brunello was the first wine granted DOCG status, the highest level within the Italian wine classification system.

  • Merlot/Carménère – Carménère is an ancient European varietal, with its roots in Bordeaux. It's old enough to have experienced more than one round of mistaken identity. However, the most famous is probably the story of "Chilean Merlot." Carménère and Merlot are half siblings, and the vines are hard to distinguish, but Carménère develops more green pepper aromas and flavors. For many years, wine bottled as Merlot in Chile had a a very distinctive green pepper note that was written off simply as a special feature of Chilean Merlot. Turns out, it was Carménère all along.

  • Savagnin/Albariño – Savagnin is a another grape with a long history of confusion, and not just because its name is very similar to Sauvignon Blanc (no relation). It has an unstable genome, and may be an offshoot of the ancient Traminer variety from Northern Italy, through which it has a large and confusing family tree. One grape to which Savagnin would seem to have no connection, however, is Albariño, which by all indications is probably inidigenous to Portugal/Galicia. And yet, for about a decade until 2009, Australian winemakers were mistakenly bottling Savignin as Albariño.

Tickets for our Wednesday tastings are $15, and the wines are 10% off during the tasting.