The 31 Most Difficult Wine and Grapes Names: How to Pronounce Them

On CTV News, Leanne and I chat about the most difficult wine and grape names to pronounce.

Click the arrows to watch the videos both above and below.

As anglophones, we find many of these names difficult since their origins are often European, with accents and inflections that are new to us.

Tip: often e and i are pronounced in the reverse when in the middle of a word, and an e at the end of a name often sounds like a long a.

Why bother? We often overlook these terrific wines, and don’t ask for them in liquor stores or in restaurants because they’re so hard to say.

We also pay tribute to the movie My Fair Lady (based on George Shaw’s play) at the beginning of segment one.

In the clips, Rex Harrison as Dr. Henry Higgins and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle practise pronouncing that chestnut phrase, “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.”

He’s trying to teach her the elegance of the English language, and how important it is to use proper diction and enunciation, especially if you don’t want to be pegged uncultured and lower class.

(No, the implication isn’t that you’ll be considered an uncouth beer guzzler if you pronounce Riesling as RISE-ling. But just don’t do it.)

Meanwhile, a real-life and modern-day doctorate of learning, Dr. Antonia Mantonakis, is teaching us about how we react to difficult wine names.

Dr. Mantonakis, the brilliant lead researcher at Brock University’s Cool Climate of Oenolgy and Viticulture Institute in St. Catharine’s, has conducted many break-through studies of consumer wine habits.

Among them, consumers will pay more for wines that have more difficult to pronounce wine names.

It’s counter-intuitive but English speakers are willing to pay an average of $2 more per bottle for wines with these “disfluent” names.

In the study, three groups of about 50 participants each rated the same Niagara Chardonnay. The wine for the first group was named Titakis, for the second group it was Tselepou, and for the third group the wine wasn’t named.

Participants were willing to pay $16 per bottle for the most tongue-twisting winery name Tselepou.

As Dr. Mantonakis explained to me, the study she conducted involved participants evaluating and tasting the wine wine without having to say the name.

She confirmed the geralizability of the results: “The Titakis/Tselepou study’s results would apply if, for instance, someone was browsing in the LCBO and saw the Pfaffenheim wine, they’d be more willing to purchase it than an ordinary sounding winery name.

“Or, if someone was at a party tasting wines, and they saw the labels of a few wines to sample, they would probably rate the taste of the more difficult to pronounce wines as higher than the easier to pronounce ones.”

However, when I asked her if the results would change if they did in fact have to ask for the wine by name, she responded: “You raise a good question: examining the effect of simply sampling versus ordering the wine/saying it out loud. This is a study I would like to run!”


Wines Featured on CTV

I’ve capitalized the stressed syllable in each word. If no syllable is capitalized, them all syllables carry equal weight.

White Wines

Peter Lehmann Wines Layers White 2015

Peter Lehmann Layers Semillon Gewürztraminer Pinot Gris Muscat


Semillon     seh mee yohn


Gewürztraminer      geh VAIRTZ trah mee ner


Pinot Gris       pee noh gree


Muscat    Mus-CAT



Studert-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2012



Studert Prum Riesling Spätlese


Riesling       REESE ling


Spätlese      SHPATE lay seh





Cono Sur Viognier 2009


Cono Sur Viognier


Viognier      vee oh nyay







Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2015


Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc


Sauvignon Blanc    saw vee nyon blahn







Chsteau St. Jean Fumr Blanc 2013



Chateau St Jean Fumé Blanc


Fumé Blanc      pwee foo may blahn






Masi Soave Classico 2012



Masi Soave


Soave      swa vay






Ruffino Classico Orvieto 2013



Ruffino Orvieto


Orvieto      or vee AE toh







Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2015



Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio


Pinot Grigio      pee noh GREE joe







Rabl Kittmansberg Gruner Veltliner 2014



Rabal Grüner Veltliner


Grüner Veltliner      GREW ner VELT lee ner







Santorini Argyros Assyrtiko 2015



Santorini Assyrtiko


Assyrtiko      A SEER tee ko






Boutari Moschofilero 2012



Boutari Moschofilero


Moschofilero      Mos ko FEE le ro








Red Wines


Cloudy Bay Vineyards Ltd Pinot Noir 2013


Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir


Pinot Noir      pee noh nwahr










Peter Lehmann Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo Shiraz


Shiraz      Shir- AZZ

Peter Lehmann Wines Layers Red Shiraz Tempranillo Mourvedre Grenache 2011

Syrah       sih-RAH


Grenache      Gruh-NOSH


Mourvèdre      moo-VED-dra


Tempranillo      tem prah NEE yoh



Luis Canas RiojaLuis Canas Crianza Tempranillo 2012


Rioja      ree OH hah





Culmina Family Estate Winery R&D Meritage 2014

Culmina Meritage


Meritage      Meh-rih-TIJ


Hermitage      er mee tahj


Cabernet Sauvignon      cab er nay saw vee nyon




Sterling Vineyards Vintner's Collection Merlot 2013


Sterling Merlot


Merlot      mer loh







Modus Ruffino 2012


 Modus Sangiovese


Sangiovese      san joe VAE sae







Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2011


Masi Amarone


Amarone      ah-mah-ROH-nay








Boutari Agiorgitiko 2011

Boutari Agiorgitiko Nemea


Agiorgitiko      Ah yor yee’ ti ko


Nemea      N eh m EH aa






Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2012


Boutari Xinomavro


Xinomavro      Ksee NO ma vro





How to Pronounce Difficult Wine and Grape Names

Agiorgitiko Ah yor yee’ ti ko
Amarone ah-mah-ROH-nay
Assyrtiko A SEER tee ko
Cabernet Sauvignon cab er nay saw vee nyon
Fumé Blanc pwee foo may blahn
Gewürztraminer geh VAIRTZ trah mee ner
Grenache Grenache
Grüner Veltliner GREW ner VELT lee ner
Hermitage er mee tahj
Meritage Meh-rih-TIJ
Merlot mer loh
Moschofilero Mos ko FEE le ro
Mourvèdre moo-VED-dra
Muscat Mus-CAT
Nemea N eh m EH aa
Orvieto or vee AE toh
Pinot Grigio pee noh GREE joe
Pinot Gris pee noh gree
Pinot Noir pee noh nwahr
Riesling REESE ling
Rioja ree OH hah
Sangiovese san joe VAE sae
Sauvignon Blanc saw vee nyon blahn
Semillon seh mee yohn
Shiraz Shir- AZZ
Soave swa vay
Spätlese SHPATE lay seh
Syrah sih-RAH
Tempranillo tem prah NEE yoh
Viognier vee oh nyay
Xinomavro Ksee NO ma vro

The 31 Most Difficult Wine and Grapes Names: How to Pronounce Them

Graham: Let’s head over to Leanne, one of my favourite segments of course, Natalie talking about wine.

Leanne: Graham, what we’re about to do could count as Olympics. I think we’re about to explore 11 wines, 15 grapes but essentially these aren’t your ordinary grapes; they’re the trickiest names to pronounce.

Natalie: Exactly.

Leanne: And that’s before you’ve had a glass of wine. Wine writer extraordinaire, Natalie MacLean. We had sort of a fun little idea.

Natalie: Yes.

Leanne: And it was to …?

Natalie: … See if we could take the most difficult to pronounce wine names and give them a go. So that we know how to say them if we’re in a restaurant or in the liquor store. There are so many wines that get ignored because people just don’t want to say the names.

Leanne: Now, there’s a study, is it at Brock?

Natalie: Yes, a brilliant researcher there Dr. Antonia Mantonakis.

Leanne: That sounds like a great wine.

Natalie: I know. She’s just brilliant in terms of the research she’s doing on consumers wine habits and wine buying. What she discovered in laboratory tests with 50 participants is that consumers are willing to pay more and perceived the wines as better if they had a more complicated name. Now they didn’t have to pronounce them and they didn’t have to order them in a restaurant but as they were sort of gazing at labels, they perceive the difficult names to be better wines.

Leanne: I’d almost pay you not to have to say them on TV . We are actually going to offer a little nod to Audrey Hepburn in Dr Doolittle and My Fair Lady, of course based on Pygmalion. Let’s take a little look at how Audrey had to struggle as Eliza Doolittle. Here’s our first clip.

Of course we both loved this film and the other one which is based in Pygmalion. But Natalie let’s take a little look, after a bit of refinement, so for us, time spent with wine pronounces or my time spent with Natalie MacLean; this is how it could all sound.

Natalie: Right, right you are … by George she’s got it.

Leanne: Don’t worry we’re not going to sing, it comes with a wine warning. Well you’re welcome to Natalie, I promise you I won’t. So you have chosen some tricky to pronounce wines, one of them is the trickiest. In two-and-a-half to three minutes we’re going to help you with your pronunciation; all of our pronounces are in capital letters on the screen.

Natalie: But we’re not going to show the wine names. That may seem to be what we’re doing but no.

Leanne: Touché so to speak. So the first wine of which we speak is ….

Natalie: From Peter Lehmann of Australia. There are four grapes in this one. It’s a real mouthful but first we have (seh mee yohn).   You might think it’s Semillon or sem ee on but it’s (seh mee yohn).

Leanne: (seh mee yohn).

Natalie: There we go. The next one is a classic and we’re always joking about it, Leanne . Its (geh VAIRTZ trah mee ner)  Gewürztraminer.

Leanne: Bless you!

Natalie: Thank you.


Natalie: A lot of these grape and wine names are European, Spanish or Italian or French and that’s why we as Anglophones especially in North America find it hard to get our tongues around these names.

Leanne: Well I think we’ve all purchased one or three of these bottles of wine but we perhaps not pronounced it in the right way.

Natalie: Exactly and we’ve also got a (pee noh gree) … Pinot Gris. It looks like Pinot Gris but it’s a (pee noh gree).

Then we have Muscat which should be fairly easy to say. So let’s keep moving along since we want to get through this.

Leanne: Let’s go on to Riesling.

Natalie: (REESE ling) …  Riesling.  Now this is hard because we often reverse the ‘i’ and the ‘e’ so it looks like Riseling.  In  Riedel glasses it looks like ‘riddle’ glasses but it’s actually (Ree del) for the  (Reese ling).

Leanne: (REESE ling).

Natalie: On this Riesling bottle, is an indication of the grapes ripeness and that is (Shpate lay seh) … Spätlese.

Leanne: Okay, t you did a little spit with the (Shpate lay seh).

Natalie: Just trying to annunciate my dear. Okay, we’re going to move right along. I love the name of this wine Cono Sur. They gave us a break with the wineries name but not so much on the grapes. So this is…

Leanne: (Vee Oh Nyay ) … Viognier.

Natalie: Very good, Leanne, my Eliza. Okay, (Vee Oh Nyay ) and we’re going to keep going down the line here.

Leanne: I should know this one off by heart, Sauvignon Blanc (saw vee nyon blahn).

Natalie: Very good.

Leanne: But where would you like your emphasis?

Natalie: (saw vee nyon blahn), that’s pretty even actually and the only mistake we tend to make with this one is saying (saw vee nyon blanc)  You don’t have to pronounce that last ‘c’ . The winery is Errazuriz but I won’t make you say that.

Leanne: Thank you.

Natalie: Okay.

Leanne: Now we should say that it’s sort of even like the wine, the pronunciation.

Natalie: Exactly.

Leanne: So Soave (swa vay)?

Natalie: Soave (swa vay), that reminds me of that song. I’m just going to Soave (swa vay) and that’s Italian. You’ll notice it’s by Masi (ma see). There’s that switch between the ‘I’ and the ‘E’; we think it’s (ma si) but it’s (ma see).

Leanne: (Ma See).

Natalie:  So that’s how you can think of a lot of these tricky ones.

Leanne: How about Orvieto (Or Vee Ae Toh)?

Natalie: (Or Vee Ae Toh).

Leanne: Roll the ‘r’ a little bit more.

Natalie: You don’t have to, just trying to get our tongues round this as North American Anglo speakers.

Leanne: Tell us about that wine.

Natalie: So both of these are crisp, in fact, the three that are on the camera right now are all very crisp, dry, refreshing summer whites. Serve them well chilled, fresh seafood and shellfish.

Leanne: And next up, (Pee Noh Gree Joe) … Pinot Grigio.

Natalie: Very good.

Leanne: Now we should say that our pronouncer isn’t right on with this because this would look like we would say Pinot Grigio but it is?

Natalie: Pee Noh GREE Joe.

Leanne: GREE Joe.

Natalie: I’m just throwing in the Italian there and don’t have an Italian bone in my body.

Leanne: Or grape?

Natalie: Yes, exactly. Well people might look at this and say it’s Pee Noh GREE Gio but no it’s (Pee Noh Gree Joe), so moving on to this Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

Leanne: This Austrian is (GREW ner VELT lee ner).

Natalie: I’m so proud of you.

Leanne: I know. I had help. So (GREW ner VELT lee ner)?

Natalie: Grüner Veltliner (GREW ner VELT lee ner).

Leanne: And what should we know if we order this wine?

Natalie: Again it’s a crisp fresh white. We’re doing all whites to start with and you’ll know there’s a lot of these European names especially Northern European names that are tongue twister but they’re worth exploring. And if we keep going we’re now on to Greece.

Leanne: We have to go to Greece and actually finish these very quickly because we’re running out of time.

Natalie: Okay.

Leanne: So now let me have you do the tongue twisters really fast.

Natalie: Okay, (A SEER tee ko) … Assyrtiko. There’s been a revolution in Greek wines. They’re so refreshing, so good, it’s worth learning how to say them. The last one we have there is (Mos ko FEE le ro) … Moschofilero.

Leanne: (Mos ko FEE le ro).

Natalie: There you go.

Leanne: And I need to know about the Moschofilero.

Natalie: Okay, well you know you could have a traditional Greek tavern dinner … fresh seafood, maybe some olives, some strong cheeses, some toasted nuts. Then you’re just looking out at the nice turquoise blue Mediterranean. Pour yourself a glass of this well chilled wine and you’re all set.

Leanne: This is why she’s a wine writer, Graham, and we will have all of these pronounces on our website, so the next time you head to the LCBO you’ll just sound “chichi” and you’ll be able to see the rain in Spain.

(2nd Part) The 31 Most Difficult Wine and Grapes Names: How to Pronounce Them

Graham: Alright, let’s head back to Leanne and Natalie; they’re talking about wine.

Leanne: I have to say Graham, Natalie really needed to drink in the commercial break but we didn’t have time because we have to change over to the Reds and the most common mistakes in pronunciation for the Reds. This is Natalie’s chance to be a Professor McHiggins; you’re the Henry Higgins on this.

Natalie: I need a little handkerchief.

Leanne: We’re starting with the reds, we have the Cloudy Bay.

Natalie: The Cloudy Bay is a wonderful New Zealand wine. I know Pinot Noir is a very common parlance, it’s a very popular wine but at first you might look at that name and you might think pee no noyer but it is pee noh nwahr.

Leanne: Pinot Noir and the next one?

Natalie: Alright, this has a number of grapes; this is the Peter Lehmann Layers. Layers because it’s complex and has many grapes in here.

Leanne: You have Shiraz (Shir-azz); it has a lot of grapes.

Natalie: Exactly and you know what’s interesting about Shiraz (Shir-azz) is that it comes from Australia. They renamed Syrah to Shiraz (Shir-azz) because it’s easier to say, more consumer friendly. The Australians are very smart so Shiraz (Shir-azz) is otherwise known as Syrah when it’s in France.

Grenache (Gruh-nosh) is also in there, you might think gren-acha, gre-nashi but it is  (Gruh-nosh).

Now here’s a mouthful Mouvèdre (Moo-ved-dra).

Leanne: Mouvèdre (Moo-ved-dra).

Natalie: We’re looking at European names and grapes and the accents and the pronunciation are all going to affect the pronunciation (Moo-ved-dra).

Then we have Tempranillo (Tem Prah Nee Yoh) which is actually a Spanish grape. Tempranillo (Tem Prah Nee Yoh) …so instead (tem prah nee low), it’s (Tem Prah Nee Yoh).

Leanne: And that moves us into a Spanish wine, to celebrate Rioja.

Natalie: Exactly, Rioja not (ree-oh-jah) it’s (ree-OH-hah). The primary grape in Rioja (ree-OH-hah) is Tempranillo (Tem Prah Nee Yoh), so we just transition from Tempranillo right into Rioja.

Leanne: I love that you’ve turned it into a lesson, fantastic! Now the next wine you’ve chosen is …?

Natalie: Okay, this is a terrific British Columbia red wine . When they blended the traditional grapes used in Bordeaux, here in Canada or the United States, we call it Meritage (Meh-Rih-Tij). A lot of people get that a little confused with Meritage (er-rih-taj) from France. They have (er-meh-taj) as in ‘Hermitage’ but this is Meritage, (Meh-Rih-Tij).

This one is a hundred percent North American type of pronunciation and it has Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab-er-nay-saw-vee-nyon) in the blend – Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab-er-nay-saw-vee-nyon).

Leanne: Beautiful, I love the way that it rolls off  the tongue and tastes on the tongue, okay.

Natalie: Exactly, so moving right along to Merlot (Mer-loh), we have a Merlot (Mer-loh) here from California. Again, I think you know here in Canada we don’t get as caught up with those hard T’s and C’s at the end.

Leanne: As you’ve been traveling stateside and you’ve heard a lot of …. ?

Natalie:   Merlots, yes, let’s just not do that. This Italian blend, Modus, from Ruffino has Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in it and it also has the classics Sangiovese (San Joe Vae Sae). It’s not (san joe veese) but Sangiovese (San Joe Vae Sae) and that last ‘ae’ is often a long ’a’ when it’s in an Italian word . So Sangiovese (San Joe Vae Sae) is in Chianti but it’s also in the Super Tuscan wine.

Leanne: Well, a lot of people love saying this word, Amarone (Ah-Mah-Roh-Nay).

Natalie: There it is again, the long ‘e’ at the end so it’s not (ah-mah-rhon), it’s Amarone.

We have Masi (ma-see) not (ma-say).

Leanne: And the last few are tricky.

Natalie: They are Greek.

Leanne: Take a go at it … it’s all Greek to me.

Natalie: And so very good. We have from Nemea, this grape Agiorgitiko (Ah Yor Yee’Ti Ko) and then the last one is Xinomavro (Ksee No Ma Vro).

Leanne: Xinomavro. (Ksee No Ma Vro)

Natalie: They’re full-body dry complex red wines, great with grilled beets.

Leanne: And we should say these are all wines Natalie loves to write about and talk about.

Natalie: I do.

Leanne: They’re all listed on our website so we hope that we have helped you, if you felt a little like Eliza.   



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