This is a big moment for Wine:Thirty Flight, for today we are welcoming our first ever new writer to our midst! Kathleen Jennings is one of our long-time wine partners in crime. You've actually already gotten a taste of her tastes as she's tasted her way through some great wine with us in the past, most recently at Brooklyn Oenology. So, Kathleen, welcome... and here we go...
I am a notoriously picky dater. I have many stories about my first dates. Far fewer second, third, fourth, etcetera dates for a variety of reasons, the least of which being that I don’t often give guys a second date. Andrew’s favorite of all my reasons to not give a guy a second date has to do with wine. Thus, the start of this series, How to Get a Second Date with Kathleen.
A few years ago, I went on a blind date in Alexandria, VA. This guy had promise. He was in the Coast Guard. He was attractive. He picked a good restaurant. He couldn’t order wine.
When we were ordering drinks, I ordered my glass first. He attempted to tell the waitress what he wanted. She couldn’t understand him and looked at me for help. I also couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. He said it again. This continued with increasingly bungled pronunciations until finally he just had to point it out on the menu. He wanted a Cabernet Sauvignon.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s only one real way to mangle Cabernet Sauvignon. CAB-ER-NET SOO-VIG-NON. Wrong.
To be fair, many wine varietals or regions (i.e. names) are not English, making them difficult for English-speakers to pronounce. Many wine names, be they varietal or regional in origin, come from France, Germany, Italy or Spain, so you must have a working knowledge of those languages to pronounce them without some sort of education or background knowledge.
At any rate, I couldn’t get past it. No second date for him. At the time Andrew thought I was crazy for not giving him a second chance. He has since changed his mind and accepts that this was a viable reason given my love of wine.
To get a second date with Kathleen, you must be able to pronounce wine names!
For your reference, New World wines (i.e. the Americas or Oceania) are typically named by grape variety while Old World wines (i.e. Europe) are typically named for the region in which they are made. For example, a Pinot Noir from Oregon will typically be labeled "Pinot Noir", while the same grape from the Burgundy region of France will typically be labeled "Burgundy" or "Bourgogne" or even more specifically by its village or vineyard, depending on a set of arcane "quality" rules that are another story for another time. Each country, and even some individual states in the US, have specific laws about naming wines. When referencing specific wines, the name of the producer plus the variety or region becomes a bit of a shorthand when referencing the wine. For example, the Bodegas Breca Garnacha that Andrew mentioned in his Best of May indicates it is a wine made by the Bodegas Breca winery and named for the Garnacha grape. The Voillot Bourgogne Rouge we tasted at The Vineyard in McLean this June is a red wine made by the Voillot winery in Burgundy.
For today’s lesson, I’ve picked a handful of regions and varietals that I see routinely on wine pronunciation guides, and that I hear butchered most often. Whether it be the region or the variety, you will now be able to pronounce wines and, hopefully, impress your date. And if you don’t get a second date, at least you’ll know it won’t be because you couldn’t pronounce your wine.
Quick notes on the below by-no-means-all-inclusive list: We've simplified the geographical names and referred to them each as a region so that we can avoid haggling over whether one or the other is technically a town, village, city, etc. We're also listing the grape varietals as producing whichever wine (red or white) it is most commonly associated with, so don't haggle with us over how you've had a white wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Moldova (we have, it was tasty). Finally, we've tried to use the most real world English pronunciations we can, rather than straight phonetic spelling. Go find a dictionary if that's what you're looking for.
By Grape Varietal
Cabernet Sauvignon, a red wine, pronounced "cab-er-nay saw-vee-nyon"
Grenache ("Garnacha" in Spain), a red wine, pronounced "greh-nash" ("gar-nah-sha", therefor, in Spain)
Gewürztraminer, a white wine, pronounced "guh-vurts-truh-meaner"
Pinot Noir, a red wine, pronounced "pee-no n’whar"
Riesling, a white wine, pronounced "reece-ling"
Sauvignon Blanc, a white wine, pronounced "saw-vee-nyon blahnk"
Semillon, a white wine, pronounced "seh-mee-yohn"
Syrah ("Shiraz" in Australia), a white wine, pronounced "See-rah" ("she-raz", therefor, in Australia)
Viognier, a white, wine, pronounced "vee-oh-nyay"
Zinfandel, a red wine, pronounced "zin-fun-dell"
Bourgogne (Burgundy), a region in France, pronounced "boor-gohn-ya"
Bordeaux, a region in France, pronounced "bore-dough"
Chianti, a region in Italy, pronounced "kee-AHN-tee"
Chablis, a region in France, pronounced "shah-blee"
Chinon, a region in France, pronounced "she-nohn"
Côtes du Rhône, a region in France, pronounced "coat dew rohn"
Napa, a region in California, pronounced... wait, seriously?
Orvieto, a region in Italy, pronounced "or-vee-et-o"
Rioja, a region in Spain, pronounced "ree-o-ha"