French wine grape pronunciation guide

La Tache and Latour Wines

I often get asked how to pronounce French grape variety names.  They are tricky for our anglo tongues…lots of silent letters and emphasize on different syllables than we would use.  While no one expects you to go into the store and put on a Pepé Le Pew accent, getting fairly close to the actual pronunciation always makes you feel a little classier.

So here is a quick cheat sheet.

Just as a little guide, wherever possible I have tried to use real English words, so “are” is really pronounced “they are late for dinner” and not in any other fancy way you might come up with like “air” or “aré”. If I couldn’t come up with a real word, I have made up phonetic spellings.

Chardonnay = Shard-oh-nay (started with an easy one)

Sauvignon Blanc = Sew-vee-nyo* Blo* (Both o’s are pronounced the same way as the o in honest…I swear.. Don’t pronounce the n or c at the end.  Blanc does not rhyme with plonk.)

Chenin Blanc = Sheh-nuh Blo* (The Sheh noise is like the beginning of the word shed. See Sauvignon, above, for blanc pronunciation.)

Viognier= Vee-oh-knee-eh (Say that 10 times fast, emphasis on the VEE, and you’ll have it!)

Marsanne = M-are-san

Roussanne = Rue-san

Sémillon = Semi-yo* (Again with the honest o)

Gewürztraminer = Guh-vurts-tram-eener

Pinot Gris = Pee-no Gree

Pinot Blanc = Pee-no Blo* (See Sauvignon, above, for blanc pronunciation)

Riesling = Reeze-ling

Cabernet Sauvignon = Ca-bear-nay Sew-vee-nyo* (Same Sauvignon pronunciation as the Blanc. I also alert your attention to the u after the a in Sauvignon. There is no grape called Cab Sav.)

Cabernet Franc = Ca-bear-nay Fro* (Again…o like honest. Don’t pronounce the n or c. Rhymes with blanc, not with honk)

Merlot = Mur-low

Pinot Noir = Pee-no Nw-are

Syrah = See-ruh (I regularly hear Se-RAW.  The emphasis is on the first syllable, people)

Grenache = Gre-nash

Mourvèdre = More-ved-druh (keep the uh sound very soft)

Carignan = Ca-ree-nyo* (again with that honest o)

Petit Verdot = Put-ee V-air-doe (put as in “put your empty bottles in the recycling bin”)

Cinsault = San-so (the first word is like the beginning of the word “sand”, but don’t quite pronounce the n…it’s as though you were on the verge and then stopped)

Gamay = Think you can guess that one for yourself…

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