I went for a wine festival at a five-star hotel recently, where they showcased more than 30 wines. "I didn’t know how to pronounce the grape name of a single one," rues Gurdeep Singh, 24, a banker who enjoys a glass of wine occasionally. Luckily, Singh found help in informed hotel staff. "Now, it’s kind of cool to order a specific wine instead of just asking for a ‘red’ or ‘white’ wine," he says.
Like Singh, many of us find the world of wine difficult to navigate thanks to seemingly-unpronounceable words. Here’s a pronunciation primer on some of the most common — and trickiest — terms.
Sauvignon Blanc: This is a popular white grape variety. “I’ve heard people call it sauvignon blank. The correct pronunciation is so-veen-yawn blahn,” says Vikram Achanta of Tulleeho Wine Academy.
Cabernet Sauvignon: This classic among red wine grapes can be quite a mouthful! The first word is pronounced ‘cab-er-nay’; the second is the same as in Sauvignon Blanc.
Merlot: “It’s pronounced ‘mer-low’,” says Sandeep Verma of Institute of Bar Operations & Management of this red wine grape. “That’s how I teach my students — by giving them the phonetic spelling.”
Champagne: The bubbly has been the source of the funniest pronunciation blooper for Verma. “Someone once called it shampaagney,” he says with a little laugh. What’s the correct way to pronounce it? “Sham-pain”, informs Verma.
Chardonnay: Compared to many of its peers, this one’s a breeze! Just ask the sommelier for some ‘shaar-doh-nay’.
Pinot Noir: It may seem like ‘pee-not no-eer’ on the face of it, but the correct way to pronounce this classic red grape varietal, according to Achanta, is “pee-noe nwar”.
Rosé: A rosé, by any other name, will still be called roe-zay. The word is French for pink, or blush, wines.
Chenin Blanc: When you order this white grape wine, call for ‘shay-naN blahn’.
Bordeaux: This is a region in France famous for its wines. The word has foxed many — “I always thought it’s ‘Bordex’,” confesses Singh. The French call it ‘bore-doh’, with the ‘d’ pronounced like the first two letters in ‘the’.