How to Pronounce Wine Names Like a Pro
Let’s face it: some wine or grape names don’t exactly roll right off the tongue. Why? First, many are in foreign languages with unfamiliar spellings. Second, most of us haven’t had formal wine education or maybe you’re not fluent in a different language.
So, if you hesitate before saying Riesling (it’s REESE-ling), don’t fret. We got you—read on!
Let’s Start With White Wine Names
One of the most popular white wines in the world is Sauvignon Blanc, whose name literally translates to “wild white.” It’s grown all over the world, but its most famous expressions are from France’s Loire Valley (its spiritual home) and New Zealand, where it’s renowned for its explosive, leap-from-the-glass aromatics. But perhaps one of the most interesting facts of all about this zippy little white grape: it’s a parent to super-famous Bordeaux and Napa Valley star, Cabernet Sauvignon—a red grape!
Depending on where it’s grown, Sauvignon Blanc’s flavor profile consists of lime, fresh-cut hay, mineral/slate, gooseberry, grapefruit, passion fruit, and honeydew. It’s also extraordinarily aromatic and vibrantly acidic, the latter of which makes it a fantastic partner for creamy goat cheese or shellfish.
Try Our Top Sauvignon Blanc Picks
Killari is from Chile’s rugged Central Valley (where savvy value-seekers head for incredible Sauvignon expressions) and the acclaimed Cremaschi Furlotti Winery, who’ve been making wine here for 130+ years! So, yeah, they know their stuff.
Fleur de Roche comes from the South West region of France (home to Atlantic-wind swept hills and well-draining sandy soils). It's named for a local plant known for its medicinal properties, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the reported health benefits of including wine in your diet.
Chenin Blanc—aka Steen in South Africa—is another Loire Valley star that’s made its way around the globe. Although its wines are typically made in a dry style, when purposely affected by botrytis (a harmless fungus—seriously), Chenin grapes make wonderfully decadent dessert wines, too.
“Honeyed” is a common flavor descriptor, along with apple, pineapple, pear, and spice. It has vivid floral notes, high acidity and a light body.
Try Our Top Chenin Blanc Picks
Chenin Blanc is a South African specialty, and Vinum is from the country’s premium Stellenbosch region. The grapes are hand-picked and manually sorted (painstaking work!) to ensure only the most perfect fruit is used.
From the sunny south of France, Plein Soleil is made to be uncorked with a roasted chicken. (Unless you’re not a fan of chicken—then try pork or a veggie casserole). Chenin’s trademark aromatic finesse is on full display here.
Try Our Favorite Pinot Grigio/Gris Wines
Treehaven Lane is a classic, California-grown “Grigio.” It’s a total thirst-quencher, with tropical fruit and citrus peel notes.
Duck Point Reserve is a “Gris” that comes from sunny Gisborne on the east of New Zealand’s North Island. With its warm temperatures and sea breezes, it’s a white wine paradise here—and Pinot Gris is one of the local claims to fame.
Now, Onto Red Wine Names
Ask any winemaker and they’ll tell ya—Pinot Noir is kind of a pain to grow. It’s famously fussy, and needs just the right vineyard conditions to truly flourish. The grape’s spiritual home is in France’s Burgundy region, where it’s used to make some of the most expensive, sought-after wine in the world. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, for example, can run you upwards of $20,000 a bottle—if you can get your hands on it. But now that you can say it with confidence, it’s also good to know that brave vine growers across the globe, from California to Chile, also make fabulous (far more affordable!) Pinot.
Pinot’s claims to fame are its hauntingly delicate, floral perfume and thin skins (which yield a pale ruby hue in the glass). Vibrant, food-friendly acidity combines with low tannins and flavors of cherry, raspberry, cola, truffle, and sometimes rose petal.
Try Some of Our Favorite Pinot Noir
George Phillips Cellars Reserve Selection No. 025 is crafted with Pinot grown near the Pacific Ocean, where brilliant sunshine is tempered by cooling breezes and fog rolling in off the water morning and night. Look for loads of jammy-fresh blackberry and dark cherry flavor.
Sunny Sicily is making some mean Pinots these days, like our elegant L’arca. Loads of ripe fruit here, but it’s balanced by a vibrant kick of acid and touches of spice.
Cabernet Franc is one of the principal grapes of Bordeaux, but it also plays a key role in the Loire Valley’s reds (along with Gamay).
Cabernet Franc’s flavors are an amalgamation of strawberry, bell pepper, red plum, raspberry, and violet flowers.
Here’s a Cabernet Franc We Think You’ll Like
La Petite Bilaude is from France’s Pays d'Oc region, where it’s rather rare to find a pure varietal Cab Franc. The name is a nod to the traditional jacket worn by vineyard workers in medieval times, but don’t let the humble-sounding name fool you: this red is polished, smooth, and refreshing.
Last, but not least, we have Cabernet Sauvignon. We already know one of its parents is Sauvignon Blanc (the other is Cab Franc!), but what else is important to know about this famous red grape?
Plenty, but we only have so much space! For now, suffice to say that Cabernet’s relatively thick skins are responsible for its trademark deep color and bold tannins. In the glass (and depending on where it’s grown), it delivers flavors of red and black currants, blackberry, black cherry, plum, cedar, green bell pepper, and tobacco.
Try Our Top Cabernet Sauvignon Wines
Wolfson Cellars is a delectable Cab from the sunny hills of California. This wine offers bold and rich flavors on the palate, including the grape’s classic black currant, black cherry, and cassis (plum).
Paperbark hails from South Australia, where Cabernet reaches insane levels of juicy, black-fruited ripeness thanks to all that sunshine. Perfect for a barbecue feast!
Pronouncing Wines at Wine Insiders
Here at Wine Insiders HQ, we believe that great wine shouldn’t be intimidating—all you need is a little bit of the right information (and some knowledgeable friends you can turn to along the way) to help you navigate a crazy-complex world with total confidence. And now that you can pronounce these amazing grapes like a pro, we think you’re well on your way.
Don’t forget to explore our Wine 101 guides for more tips, tricks, and knowledge drops. Until next time …
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