How to Pronounce Some Common Wine Words

Couple having dinner in a luxury restaurantWhy can virtually everyone look at a word like Champagne and pronounce it correctly, yet have so much trouble with other words associated with wine?

The answer is simple: Pretty much everyone has heard of, sipped and enjoyed Champagne, but lots of “wine words” are quite tricky to pronounce correctly.

Take Vin de Pays, as an example. That looks pretty straightforward, right?

Vin… deh… pays.

Wrong… right… wrong.

The correct pronunciation is vahn-deh-pay-ee.

A few other “wine words” and how to pronounce them…

  • Malbec — mall-bek

Celebrate your knowledge with a glass of 2013 Hector Durigutti Malbec from Argentina, a full-bodied and fruitful wine that showcases notes of black cherry, blackberry and gobs of chocolate.

  • Semillon — say-mee-yawn

Practice it while drinking the 2015 Ricardo Santos Semillon from the Mendoza region of Argentina. It’s a rich, viscous wine with notes of peach, melon, and red and yellow apples.

  • Viognier — vee-own-yay

The 2015 Domaine Vision — and I’m pretty sure that’s not pronounced like the word associated with eyesight — Viognier would be a wonderful wine to drink while practicing your pronunciation. It has an alluring orange blossom aroma that leads to impressions of peach, apricot, vanilla, coconut, toast and cedar.

  • Loire — lwar

I’ve found that spooning some peanut butter in my mouth helps with the pronunciation of this appellation of France.

  • Shiraz — sheer-az

You’ll need a lush, intense rendition like the 2015 Thomas Goss Shiraz from Australia’s McLaren Vale growing region for this one, because it’s certain to spark a debate.

I’ve saved this one for last because even some “wine pronunciation guides” get this one wrong, as do many sommeliers. In fact, I’ll often order Shiraz in a restaurant by pointing to its line on the wine list, so I can hear how the sommelier pronounces it. If they get it right, I know that they know their stuff.

As noted above, the correct pronunciation is sheer-az. Think of it as the last syllable rhyming with pizzazz.

Yet most people will look at the word and pronounce it like this: shi-raws.

And that’s just shi-wrong.

How do I know this? Because I have asked literally dozens of Aussie vintners, and to a man (and one woman), each has pronounced it sheer-az.

There occasionally is a slight variation to shee-raz. But that’s rare. And not one has ever said, “shi-raws.”

When I mention to those vintners that many people do pronounce it “shi-raws,” their typical response is: “They must be Americans.”

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