Order with confidence: How to pronounce wine varietals

Wine is one of life’s most simple pleasures, but it does have a bit of a reputation for being a complex character. For good reason; the way wine is harvested, the notes, the varietals, the tannins… There's an intricate story behind every bottle. Also, the name of varietals. For the Australian twang, ordering certain types of wine doesn’t come with a lot of confidence. With decades in the wine industry, we’ve become well versed, but we see hesitation in our Cellar Door patrons when ordering. So, we thought we’d give you a one-stop list of wine types and how to say them properly, so you can do away with the coy points to the wine menu and instead order like a pro. 

Cabernet Sauvignon 

How to pronounce it: ka-ber-nay soh-VIN-yohn

Hands up if you default to ‘Cab Sav’ on this one? Maybe you’re in a hurry, but more times than not we find this one of the more daunting pronunciations. Originating in France (the Aquitaine Department of France, specifically), it means ‘wild Cabernet’ (cabernet a Latin term that loosely translates to ‘black vine’). 

If you’ve pronounced ‘-net’ and -‘vignon’ phonetically, please don’t cringe; you’re definitely not alone, it’s a very common mispronunciation. Use this to proudly ask for your next bottle or glass of ‘kabernay sohvinyohn’. 


How to pronounce it: mal-bek

This is a tricky one because it is often assumed it should have a less phonetic pronunciation, given that so many wine types drop or change the last consonant (one of the broad French language rules). A common mispronunciation, for example, is ‘malbe’, ‘malbech’ or ‘malbes’. Malbec pronounces the final ‘c’ however, because the rule has some exceptions, and one of those exceptions is when a word ends in ‘c’.

Pinot Noir

How to pronounce it: pee-noh nwar

There are a lot of hits and misses on the pronunciation of Pinot Noir (meaning, pine and black, refering to the pine cone shaped fruit clusters on the vine). Taking the French language rule of omitting the final consonant, you drop the ‘t’ when saying the word, and turn the ‘i’ into an ‘ee’ sound. However, that’s not the most mispronounced part of the wine. Often, the ‘noir’ is sounded out as ‘nuu-war’ (which is how we hear it when we’re speaking about noir films, for example). For the wine, though, it’s a smoother ‘nwar’ sound.  

Pinot Gris

How to pronounce it: pee-noh gree

Pinot is pronounced the same as it is with Pinot Noir, however it’s the ‘Gris’ that catches people the most. ‘S’ is not one of the exceptions to pronouncing the last consonant, so it is dropped. Similar to Pinot Noir, the veritials name makes reference to the colour and shape of the grape cluster on the vine, translating to ‘white pine cone’ (if you’re looking for some quick facts to drop at your next dinner party, you’ve come to the right place!). 


How to pronounce it: tem-pra-nee-yoh

Not what you thought? You’re not alone! Often, this comes out as ‘ tempra-neello’, which absolutely makes logical sense. However, coming from the Spanish word temprano meaning ‘early’ the ‘illo’ is pronounced ‘ee-yoh’ (when double L occurs in Spanish, it changes to ‘y’).


How to pronounce it: sem-ee-yon

There are some controversies around the correct way to say Semillon, with a few changes in inflection depending on which country and region you’re in. However, the commonly accepted ‘right’ way is to take the French rule of double L taking on a ‘yuh’ sound and have  the last consonant sounded out. ‘Sem-ih-yon’ is also an accepted correct pronunciation. (Fun fact: Semillon comes from semilhar, which means ‘to sow’ in French, or ‘seed’ in Latin).

Ready to confidently order your next wine selection now? Book or walk into our Cellar Door and test out your newly perfected wine dialect.

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