Olaszrizling is Hungary’s most widely planted white variety. Its name often leads to confusion as it can be translated as Italian Riesling. However, the variety is not Italian nor is it related to Riesling as far as we know. Indeed sometimes Hungarians simply refer to it as Rizling, which admittedly I find rather confusing. Riesling is known here as Rajni (Rhine) Riesling.
Three Balaton winemakers’ associations have decided to try to put an end to this confusion, especially as regards export markets. The Balatoni Kör (Balaton Circle), Rizling Generation and Csopaki Kódex are part of an initiative seeking a new name in Hungary for the variety. Although interestingly, the Italians call it Riesling Italico, it is known as Welschriesling in German-speaking countries (it’s grown widely in Austria) and Graševina in Croatia, by which it is referenced in ‘Wine Grapes’. As Hungarians generally consider this a Hungarian variety, many felt somewhat snubbed when Graševina was the name selected for use in this mighty reference tome.
Of course, you can’t just change the name as you wish, any new name has to be approved by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) headquartered in Switzerland.
So, what names are on the table?
Oris – This name reflects its current name of Olaszrizling, i.e. a merging of the two words.
Nemes – This name aims to identify the variety as a noble variety, not a mass wine, which many consider it to be, given that it is often sold as bulk wine for very low prices. In northern Europe, it also has the reputation of being rather poor quality due to large quantities of Yugoslavian Laski Rizling exported under communism. Although the variety is capable of producing attractive, concentrated wines if the yields are controlled. The word nemes means noble in Hungarian.
Mandola – This name probably refers to the almond note which is one of the typical flavour and aroma characteristics of Olaszrizling.
So the race is on for a new Hungarian name for the variety. But what about the name Welschriesling, which also contains the word Riesling? English speakers will often refer to the variety by this name too and then it gives the impression it is from Wales, i.e. Welsh Riesling. However, Welsch doesn’t actually mean Welsh in German, it means Latin, Southern European or foreign. Welsh is actually Walisisch in German. But now perhaps I’m being over picky.