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How to pronounce those tricky wine words

Article by Pip Martin

A recent wine survey commissioned by pub chain Chef and Brewer here in the UK has certainly got the online wine community talking. It seems not only do people not know what to pick in a restaurant, they don’t know how to pronounce their choice when they alight on it. We’ll admit wine pronunciation is something of a verbal minefield, but is it really that bad? Do people really pronounce the T in Pinot Noir – one of the survey’s findings? I have to say, in all the corporate wine tasting events we’ve hosted, we’ve never heard this. One online commentator suggested this issue has little to do with wine and all to do with the inability of most people to speak another language. We can all see an element of truth in this. The truth is almost everyone struggles with wine pronunciation. Consider the sheer volume of wine varietals out there (Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon are just 4 from a roll call of thousands), add to this wine regions (from the Old World to the New), and then add on wine estates and producers (some of whom have the most obscure names under the sun). Even if they were multilingual, no single person would be word perfect on all the “wine words” out there. Interestingly, the survey ventures beyond enunciation alone. Apparently 10% of people complain waiters in restaurants do not pour enough wine, when the idea is for them to taste it. 16% of people order the most expensive bottle of wine so it looks like they know about the subject. 5% of customers apparently ask for a slice of lemon in their glass. Interesting though it is, we can’t help but wonder where the survey got its respondents from. Most of the findings we have never come across in all our time in the wine business. We can’t help but feel most people get hung up on pronunciation, and this to us is not really what matters in wine appreciation. If you are the type to get terribly embarrassed in restaurants or wine shops, just get the main wine words (mostly grape varietals these days) clear in your head. In our bid to be user friendly, below is a pronunciation guide for some of the most common wine words. Whilst these phonetic guides are only useful to a certain extent (there’s no substitute for listening to a native!) we hope it helps: Barbera: Bar-Bare-Uh Barolo: Ba-Ro-Low Cabernet Franc: Cab-Uhr-Nay-Frahnk Cabernet Sauvignon: Cab-Er-Nay So-Vee-Nyon Carmenere: Car-Men-Yehr Gavi: Gah-Vee Grenache – Gren-Ash Moet et Chandon: Moh-et ay Shan-Don Pinot Noir: Pee-No Nwahr Riesling – Reece-Ling Sangiovese: San-Gio-Vay-Zee Sauvignon Blanc – So-Vee-NYo(n), Blah(n) Semillon: Seh-Mee-Yhon Shiraz – Shir-Raz Syrah: Si-Rah Viognier: Vee-Onee-Aye Zinfandel: Zin-Fan-Del