Tackle the complexity of swirling fine wines

wine-snob01A Vine Time with Samantha Venter

WITH its ancient roots, arcane methods and a flair for off-the-wall taste descriptions, it’s easy to see how the world of wine could attract those stereotyped elitist wine snobs.

You know the ones – they toss jargon and drop names to show their superiority, while leaving nose prints on the inside of the glass.

While there’s nothing wrong with nosing your wine – it’s part of the enjoyment, after all – thankfully the wine snob is a dying breed. Wine is becoming more accessible and fun, something to be enjoyed by anyone, in any way they wish (winemakers now encourage drinkers to gooi ice in their wine if that’s what makes them happy).

Independent wine shops and wine bars are a growing trend (alright, more in Cape Town than PE, but we’ll get there) and alongside the venerable critics and esteemed publications like Wine Spectator, ordinary wine-lovers are sharing their experiences in blogs like The Anti Wine Snob, Wine Folly, and Wine Anorak.

But you don’t have to be a wine snob to want to know how to pronounce some of wine’s notorious tongue-twisters and so avoid the embarrassment of watching uppity waiters cringe when you mangle the likes of sémillon and sangiovese. Our winemakers are increasingly playing with previously unfamiliar cultivars, but not knowing how to say the name often puts people off the happy adventure of trying something new.

Sémillon, it turns out, is apparently the wine most mispronounced by Britons. (Thanks to Footballers’ Wives, they can all say Chardonnay.)

So, for the record, it’s sem-ee-yon. Say vee-ohn-yay and you’ll get a glass of its French relative, viognier.

The T’s in merlot and pinot (pee-noh) are silent, so the earthy red pinot noir is pee-noh nwah and the crisp Italian white pinot grigio is pee-noh gree-joe, or as it’s known in France – pinot gris, or pee-noh gree.

The ch in chenin is actually a sh, but in the Italian classic red chianti it’s a hard C – key-AHN-ti. Staying in Italy, sangiovese (Sun-joe-VEH-seh) is their rich and hearty red.

The German favourite gewürztraminer is another mind-boggler, but say it with a hard G as in “great” – geh-VAIRTZ-trah-mi-ner – and you should be understood.

The Spaniards would love for you to say rioja properly – try ree-OH-ha. Making up a classic red blend that we’re seeing more of are shiraz (shee-raz, or syrah/see-rah in France), mourvèdre (moo-VED-ruh) and Grenache (gruh-naash), sometimes with viognier instead of the grenache.

Happy pronouncing and tasting!

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