Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wine Pronunciation Guides

Raise your hand if you opted to study Spanish instead of French in school.  Now, keep your hand raised if you did this at least partly because pronouncing Spanish is much easier.  My hand is still up...anyone else?
Speaking French for me is an exercise in awkwardness and confused tongue-tying that can only be rivaled by the first time I called a girl to ask her out.  Still, I managed to muddle through more than a decade as a wine professional, actually helping people become more comfortable with saying the names of grapes and regions out loud.  
France does not have exclusivity on hard-to-pronounce wine names but with their long history and high profile they tend to intimidate more regularly and create people willing to quickly and vehemently correct you...even when they are wrong.
My two favorite moments regarding customers adamantly denouncing my pronunciation reach back to my retail days in the mid-1990s.  Both took umbrage with my French.  Muscadet and Chateauneuf-du-Pape mostly lend themselves to being sounded out (moos-KA-day and shat-o-newf-doo-pop) but emphasis changes everything.  One patron scolded me, saying, "The French say it this way, "MEEWWWWWS-ka-day. MEEWWWWWS-ka-day."  It sounded more like the beginning of a comedy routine or some sort of mating call than a pronunciation guide.  The other only objected to the ending of my version.  Instead of "doo-pop" he insisted, with hand flourishes included, that it should be "DOO-pop-PAY, DOO-pop-PAY."  
Snobs and bullies, unfortunately, abound in the world of wine...don't let them intimidate you.

Here are some of the best pronunciation guides on the web:
Wine Lover's Page - This offers many definitions and even a chance to click and listen to someone speak the word you selected.  I have an issue with some of the phonetics but they are minor.
Palm Bay International Audio Files - Excellent, if perhaps "overly correct," examples from their portfolio.  Fortunately they carry a lot of wines.  You can search by region, grape, producer, country, etc.  You have to search each time but this is impressive.
WineEducation.com - A large library of words and good phonetics.  No audio.

There are thousands of others, many with some audio pronunciation but they are much more specific, focusing on Bordeaux, Rhone varieties, etc. or on YouTube and I'm not going to listen to a five minute video for one word.  If you want to, by all means visit YouTube and search "wine pronunciation."

If you have other top-notch free resources, please feel free to share them here.  I will be creating a page with this information for easy access and there will be more to come.

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