Some wines as fun to say as they are to drink
It surprises my friends and wine class guests that, as a child, I had a speech impediment requiring speech classes to advance into fifth grade. My little class companions seemed embarrassed, but not me! As I practiced sibilants (s, sh, ch, x), plosives (b, p, t, d) and other phonetic components, I felt I was being offered a pathway into the joy of language. I still do!
So, when journalists write about a wine's texture -- how it grips the mouth with firm tannin or caresses like silk-satin, for instance -- I like to think about how the wine's name grips, caresses and rolls around in my mouth. Here's the "mouthfeel" of a few wines that are as fun to say as they are to drink.
Cahors: The French language may seem singsong to some. But in southwest regions, the ancient Occitan dialect creates rough-and-tumble sounds like Cahors (How to Pronounce Cahors? (correctly) French City/Wine Pronunciation -- Bing video), with its hard "c," sliding into deep, throaty "or." The tiny Cahors commune is France's final vestige of Malbec, which was yanked out due to the unfortunate combination of coastal vineyards and the vine's susceptibility to dampness and mold. Today, grown in desert-like Argentina, the grape is known for its plush flavors. Still, once called The Black Wine of Cahors, the original is meaty/funky with firm tannin and garrigue accents (to learn how to pronounce garrigue, check out HowToPronounce.com), a wild herb growing throughout France's south. Serve with meats, rich poultry and veggie dishes. A widely available Cahors producer is Clos La Coutale; my current favorite is Chateau Les Croisille "Le Croizillion," both cost under $20.
Garnacha: With its solid and explosive "g" and "ch," this name expresses the grape's rich, dynamic flavors. Garnacha isn't familiar like grapes Chardonnay and Cabernet but is nearly as influential, as it is used as the primary element in Australia's GSMs (along with Syrah and Mourvedre), in international rosés, in early California jug wines, and as a blending grape in France's famed Rhone Valley. The grape originated in northern Spain, carried by wandering monks over the Pyrenees into France, where its name changed from the Spanish Garnacha to Grenache. Such is France's influence that even modern Spanish producers refer to Grenache, not Garnacha, in their wines to attract customers. To practice: How to Pronounce Garnacha? (GRENACHE) See the Spanish Wine Grape Pronunciation -- Bing video.
I admit to falling to the same prejudice in naming my new class, which is titled "Get to Know Your Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Grenache." Learning grapes is as vital to a wine lover as learning colors is to a lover of art. From 6-7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, we'll taste and discuss two examples of each of these prominent grapes to understand how soil, climate and culture create wine's rainbow of flavor. For more information and to register, search the title at thechoppingblock.com/class-calendar.
Moët & Chandon: Moët is the world's most famous Champagne, ringing in at one in every 10 Champagne bottles sold. Even though you've probably had a bottle, you probably don't know how to say it. In standard French, you'd say moe-AE. In fact, Moët is the Dutch family name of founder Claude Moët, pronounced moe-WETT. After the hard "t," the name slides into "et Chandon" as gracefully as this delicious wine slides down your throat. (How to pronounce Moët et Chandon | HowToPronounce.com). For information, see Moët & Chandon keeps on sparkling -- 300 years & counting on dailyherald.com. Only the shelf price has changed.
Brut Imperial, Non-Vintage: Tones of sunshine and very fine, creamy bubbles in the glass. On the palate, both vibrant and sophisticated; dry, with pear and apple flavors, mineral nuance and a finish that calls for another sip, especially when paired with creamy cow's milk cheese, smoked seafood, oysters, or the Waldorf Astoria's luxurious polenta. Available just about everywhere, the wine sells for about $50.
And finally, about the pronunciation of Oregon's premiere wine region, I never get tired of saying it's will-A-mette.
• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers), a Certified Wine Educator (Society of Wine Educators) and recipient of the Wine Spectator's "Grand Award of Excellence." Write to her at email@example.com.
Wine name: Valpolicella DOC Superiore
Region: Veneto, Italy
Availability: At major chains, $17 and under
Distributed by: Winebow Fine Wines & Spirits, Chicago
Tasting notes: Just drop the word Valpolicella into conversation with any Italian or wine lover and you'll be greeted enthusiastically with "Ah, Valpolicella!" probably followed by a long list of food pairings including pastin (thick, grilled sausage), gallina padovana (roasted hen), fegato ala venesiana (liver and onions) and of course, pizza! The word bounces phonetically between fricative, mono- and diphthongs, plosive, even an approximant. This wine's flavors bounce between its plush blanket of flavor -- ripe berries, dried herbs, hints of exotic spice -- and a pleasing tannic smack. Follow this link to learn Nadia Zenato's pronunciation, along with another super wine word -- Superiore! Zenato Wine Tasting | Valpolicella -- YouTube