ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why is the name “Tocai” not allowed on wine labels anymore? It has nothing to do with the great Hungarian sweet wine Tokaji. One is the name of a white wine variety, the other is the name of a wine. So winemakers keep changing the name. One of them changed Tocai into “Green Sauvignon.” All of a sudden we’ve got a brand new grape variety.

—Drago B., Jesenice, Slovenia

Dear Drago,

You’re correct that in 2007, Hungarian winemakers persuaded the European Union to ban the use of the word “Tocai”—as in Tocai Friulano, the popular white wine from the Friuli region of Italy—so as not to be confused with the name of their famous dessert wine, Tokaji. You’re also right that Tokaji is a dessert wine and Tocai Friulano is a dry white wine, and you might not ever think of confusing the two, but Tokaji and Tocai are often pronounced the same way, “toe-kye,” rhymes with “pie.”

I understand why Hungarian winemakers feel like they have to protect the name Tokaji. After all, if there were any new wine advice columnists called “Doktor Vinnie” out there, I might have my fake attorneys send them a strongly worded letter. I feel bad that Tocai Friulano didn’t get to keep using Tocai, but the Hungarians made their case and it was ruled the way it was. By the way, Alsatian winemakers are also no longer to call Pinot Gris “Tokay d’Alsace,” so there is no confusion over which region and which wine is called Tokaji.

So, in the aftermath of that decision, some winemakers are referring to the grape formerly known as Tocai Friulano as simply Friulano, Sauvignon Vert, Sauvignon Verde or Sauvignonasse. Outside of Europe, some producers are still using the term Tocai Friulano.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories