Eric the Red was right to “have a little fun with it” when he wrote me asking about the pronunciation of the Italian grape name Lagrein last year.
“FEW things are simple in northeastern Italy,” he wrote, “least of all lagrein, a red grape that can produce fresh, aromatic, highly seductive wines. Why, just last week, I asked a linguistically minded friend who is fluent in Italian for the proper pronunciation of lagrein. Here is his response, or part of it:”
- “Lagrein is a tough one,” he said, “in part because it’s pronounced using a Germanic, as opposed to an Italianate vowel system.” He went on to offer his preference, lah-GRAH’EEN, but allowed that lah-GRINE and lah-GREYE’NE (where greye rhymes with eye) were also acceptable. Well, linguists are nothing if not perfectionists. But even allowing for such hairsplitting, lagrein comes with ample grounds for confusion. It is grown primarily in Alto Adige, a region so far to the north in Alpine Italy that it practically touches Austria and Switzerland. There, the culture is more Tyrolean than Italian, and the first language is often German. Many wines from the region are labeled in both Italian and in German. Even the name of the region, Alto Adige, does not speak for itself; it is generally rendered bilingually with its German counterpart, Südtirol (South Tyrol, using the Germanic vowel system, of course).
Here’s the link to his profile of Lagrein and tasting panel notes.
When I headed to Italy at the end of March to attend the annual Italian wine trade fair, Lagrein was on the top of my list of new ampelonyms to capture for the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project.
And so I made a beeline to the Franz Gojer stand — in my view, one of the greatest producers of Lagrein — and asked Franz’s son Florian to speak for my camera. While Florian is bilingual (and of course, we spoke in Italian), German is his first language. And as per what I told Eric above, Lagrein, linguistically speaking, is first and foremost Germanic.
Thanks for speaking Italian (grapes)!