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June 22, 2009


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ah, this tale brings to mind the timeless B-52's classic: Dance This Mess Around.

Critics of the term "lemberger" always invoke the lactose specter --- that consumers will confuse it with the stinky cheese. I frequently deal with some of the least informed wine consumers. Yet, I have never met anyone who would ever conclude that a bottled wine was made from a cheese. Why don't these people think flightless birds are crushed to make "Little Penguin" wines?
Far be it from me to overestimate American intelligence, but honestly, tasting room visitors are not that moronic. I still believe good staff can handsell a product regardless of what its called.


I don't think anyone thinks the wine was made from a cheese. You're attacking a straw man there. The issue is association, and I can promise you, having poured on one of the busiest weekends of the year at Fox Run last year, that association is real. It's not an issue for everyone, or even most people, but it certainly was an issue for many of the average tasters who stopped by on a wine tour. I literally had people recoil and decline to taste it. After I persisted, they did, but the initial reaction for many people I met was visceral.

That's a small sample size, of course. Hardly scientific. But I can appreciate the concern, having seen some of that reaction.

David: I don't think this is a matter of consumers being confused. I think it's just a reaction to a word that sounds an awful lot like a stinky cheese.

I'm in the Blaufrankisch camp, personally, because I like the idea of a grape going by it's original name. Sure, it's a unique name that not everyone can pronounce the first time they see it, but I've heard people say "mer-lot" (rhymes with 'hot') or caber-net (rhymes with 'get') frank too.

I know. Let's pretend it's a French grape, and call it "Lahm-Bare-Zhay". Lends a little much needed cachet, n'est ce pas?

...or we could name it after the prominent California wine critic, and call it 'Danberger'.

Peter Bell...you are a hamburger... ;)

As you can tell, I certainly understand Thomas Laszlo's wish to be called by his real name, and, I suppose, why not a grape variety too.

It's great you mention calling him Thomas and not Tom. During the Cool Climate Seminar in Southampton last summer, he led his discussion by telling everyone if you google "Thomas Laszlo" you will find a gay pornstar with that name in the first results, and that's not him.

He's a funny guy and definitely opinionated. I agree that Blaufrankisch is a much better name.

I wonder how many readers just typed "Thomas Laszlo" into Google.

If the case for "blaufrankisch" is because it was "the original" name, then many, many varietals are going to have to change their lables. Few today have the names from the Charlemagne era or, for that matter, the King Darius era. Why not go back to original Persian names of all V. vinifera?

David: A fair point, but I'm not really hearing an argument FOR Lemberger. So far you've only defended that name, I think.

It is not entirely correct to say that "Only in the United States is it called 'Lemberger", for it is called Lemberger in Germany. Less often is it named Limberger. The associations with the stinky cheese comes up every so often, but not enough for this to be a real problem. I find that the people who do make an issue of it eat Kraft singles and have never tasted Limburger cheese anyway. That issue can quickly be remedied by an educated tasting room pourer. Fox Run, Red Tail Ridge, Keuka Springs, Dr. Frank, Rooster Hill, Anthony Road, Swedish Hill, Hosmer, and Ravines all use the Lemberger name for the grape that goes into their wine. These wineries have been using the name for years and have developed branding for the name. To get these wineries to change the name to Blaufrankisch because Thomas and Christopher have makes no sense. To come up with a new name entirely makes no sense either, plus you would never get everyone to agree. Blaufrankisch and Lemberger are both appropriate names for the same grape and I have no problem with either of them being applied. Spaetburgunder anybody?
Peter Becraft/Anthony Road Wine Co.

I don't think "Lemberger" is a one-size-fits-all answer. Wineries need to do what they think works for them. I don't think the arguments against Lemberger are sound. "Blaufrankisch" is hardly an improvement in accessibility or aesthetics.
I argued in the 1990s to call it Blue Franc like Jed Steele and a few folks in Washington.
Consumers love blue and love to be able to pronounce their wines.

Let's just call it "Hello Kitty" and be done with it. The truth is, apologies to Teutonic types, certain Germanic phonemes just grate on the ears to those used to the mellifluous sounds of Romance languages. And yes I know that English is technically a Germanic language.

I don't really understand all the fuss about the name.
Is it only because the Lemberger has established itself here in the Finger Lakes and Blaufrankisch is a bit of a tongue twister to some? Is this any different than a few of the wineries producing Pinot Gris while a majority do Pinot Grigio. Personally, I believe the Blau name will catch on and if marketed well, will be good for the Finger Lakes wine industry.

I know this is an old thread, but this was in yesterday's NY Times (Sept. 15, 2011):

While Asinov doesn't seem to realize anyone is making wines from this grape in the Finger Lakes, he does note that it's Blaufränkisch (note the umlaut, please) in Austria and usually Lemberger in Germany.

Art - Yeah, saw that. Nice for the grape to get attention! Eric is an open-minded writer and I'm not surprise his interest alighted there.

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