Wine Tongue Twisters

Winegeek-speak is tough enough without the foreign tongue-twisting words that are sprinkled all over the shelves like salt and vinegar on fish ‘n’ chips.

Getting past the lofty and often insanely obscure descriptive terms, most wine grapes have traditional ‘Old World’ names with roots in the French, Italian or German languages.  The pronunciation of these words is not always obvious to English speakers.

Take, for example, Viognier? Traditionally a French white wine grape, blended into the reds of the northern Rhone Valley to add a dash of floral aromatics, it was ‘re-discovered’ by Australia’s Yalumba winery and was soon making very tasty whites all over the wine world. It is not pronounced Vy-OGG-neer but instead: Vee-yoh-N'YAY.

A Chilean version, Cono Sur Viognier (494708) $10.99 shows a medley of apple and peach aromas and flavours, with tropical notes of mango and pineapple mid-palate and that classic, characteristic whiff of honeysuckle in the finish.

Sounding a bit like an extended sneeze and sporting a Germanic umlaut over the second syllable. Gewürztraminer is pronounced Ge-VOORTZ-tra-meener. Savvy wine lovers often call it simply Gew which they pronounce Goooh.

It is a favourite aromatic white wine grape, here in British Columbia.  Mt.Boucherie Gewurztraminer (602086) $17.79 is a relatively dry, well-balanced example full of classic lychee fruit and orange and rose petal aromas and flavours.

France’s famed Bordeaux is pronounced bore-DOH. Bordeaux and affordable are two words that rarely appear in the same sentence.  There are, however, some exceptions to that rule.  Not always easy to find, they are well worth finding.

A classic red Bordeaux blend of blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Croix Saint-Martin Bordeaux (933945) $14.49 is a refreshingly approachable example.  Soft red berry fruit aromas open into a well-balanced mouthful of dusky ripe plum and black raspberry flavours.

Most often mispronounced as RYE-zling, Riesling should be pronounced REEZ-ling. Grown throughout the wine world, this is Germany’s best-known and most highly respected white wine grape.  The finest examples come from The Mosel and Rheingau regions.

Just a notch up the scale from off-dry, Leitz Dragonstone Riesling (41756) $18.99 has exuberantly fruity sweetness balanced by palate cleansing natural acidity. This Rheingau white comes from viineyards outside of Rudesheim. Peach, orange rind, lime and pink grapefruit dance on the taste buds with a wisp of salty minerality in the finish.

Chianti is a well-known Italian wine growing region in Tuscany, with a history of recognition for excellent wine-making going back to 1716.  Today’s red Chianti wines are expected to be comprised of a minimum of 75 – 90 per cent Sangiovese – Italy’s most widely planted red wine grape.

Pronounced KWER-shoh-nay Key-AHN-tee, Quercione Chianti (405258) 2015 $20.49, this DOCG - controlled and guaranteed designation of origin – red is 95 per cent Sangiovese and 5 per cent Canaiolo Nero. Although quite dry, it shows a medley of fruit – cherries, raspberries, blackberries – as well as peppery leather and just a whiff of roses.

Many Spanish red wines are designated Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Crianza – Kree-AHN-zah - red wines are aged for at least 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. The wines of Rioja are some of Spain’s most sought after – both white and red.

With a silent ‘j’ turned ‘h’, Rioja is pronounced ree-OH-hah. Vivanco Rioja Crianza (395319) $23.99 leads with bright red cherries, violets and red fruit, with a hint of vanilla and spice. Hints of smoke, toasty vanilla, and spicy liquorice balance the fruit.

With its own alphabet, reading Greek is beyond the reach of many wine lovers who only speak English.  Renowned for years for their pine resin flavoured white Retsina wine, it is only in the last 10 years that premium boutique Greek wines have become commonly available.

Pronounced Ksee-NOH-mah-vroh, Xinomavro is a big, bold red wine grape often compared to Nebbiolo – the Italian red wine grape that gives us Barbaresco and Barolo.  Averoff Xinomavro (789651) $29.99 is grown in Nemea in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnese peninsula.  Earthy dark berry fruit flavours finish with notes of peppery spice and fresh cut tobacco leaf.

And, of course, in the word Pinot (Blanc, Gris, Grigio, Noir, etc…) the ‘t’ is silent and we say PEE-noh, much like the case of the silent ‘t’ in Merlot – which is pronounced Mehr-LOH!

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