Say it properly! Merci!

I feel like a rant, provoked by a couple of recent articles.

According to the UK’s Telegraph online there is widespread mispronunciation of wine words in England – basically because most wine words we have commonly adopted are French, Italian, Spanish or German. I have lived in NZ and now live in Australia and the phenomenon is certainly no better, if not worse, in countries where it is not common for people to learn any language other than English. Therefore attempts at foreign pronunciation are laughable at best and cringe-worthy at worst. Any French word is mangled beyond belief, which is a shame for such a beautiful language and one at the heart of wine culture and history. Recent advertisements by McDonald’s on Australian TV include a number of French words all pronounced with a totally Australian accent – gourmet – with a heavy T; piece de resistance, etc. Makes me sooo mad…

I work in the wine industry and am amazed that people who also work full time in the wine industry (and therefore should make an effort with the associated languages) have no respect for the pronunciation of words central to their business.

My pet hates are:

Shiraz being pronounced like syrah with a ‘sh’ – i.e. making the z silent. No language in the world has a silent ‘z’ – at least none of the mainstream languages that use the word shiraz. The word is shiraz and rhymes with jazz. The reason I am told for this bizarre pronunciation – we have always said it like this. Yeah well, they ‘always’ burned witches until they learned better.

On the subject of shiraz, the French word for shiraz is syrah – pronounced see-rah – NOT sigh-ra! Oh boy that one gets me.

Sauvignon blanc – the ‘c’ is silent – it is NOT blonK. Grrrr

Sémillon – the ‘l’ is not pronounced as in English. The double ‘l’ produces a ‘y’ sound  semi‘y’on.

Riesling – it is not made from rice and does not rhyme with it! It is a German word – it is pronounced ‘reesling’ and the ‘s’ is not as soft as the English ‘s’.

Pinot (as in pinot noir and pinot gris) – the ‘t’ is silent. It’s not hard! And it is ‘no’ as in no not yes, NOT not!

Petit (as in petit verdot) – the last ‘t’ is silent in both words. It is only pronounced if followed by a vowel.

That will do for now and I feel vented. If just one person stops MURDERING French pronunciation I will be a lot happier.

Thank you!


Telegraph’s recent articles:


About tigchandler

English-born, lived several years in Wellington, NZ, then in Adelaide, South Australia, and recently moved back to New Zealand. With an economics background, I have worked in researching wine consumption patterns, marketing, economics and social media at the University of Adelaide. I also worked a vintage and in wineries in McLaren Vale so have seen both the research/analytical side of the industry and the practical/hands-on side. I have retail experience and many ongoing industry links all around Australia and overseas. This blog reflects my ongoing passion for everything related to the wine industry.
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