Selecting a wine you like is easy when you can correctly pronounce wine names, use appropriate terms to describe wine, decode wine names, and approach the selecting process with confidence.

Quick guide to wine pronunciation

Correctly pronouncing wine names is one way to keep from irritating a wine snob; the following table can help you out. The stressed syllable in each word is italicized; if no syllable is italicized, all syllables carry equal weight.

Auslese ouse-lay-seh
Beaujolais boh-jhoe-lay
Bourgogne boor-guh-nyuh
Brut brute
Cabernet Sauvignon cab-er-nay saw-vee-nyon
Chablis shah-blee
Chardonnay shar-dohn-nay
Châteauneuf-du-Pape shah-toe-nuf-doo-pahp
Côte-Rotie coat-roe-tee
Gewürztraminer geh-vairtz-trah-mee-ner
Haut-Brion oh-bree-ohn
Hermitage er-mee-tahj
Loire l’wahr
Mâcon mah-cawn
Merlot mer-loh
Meursault muhr-so
Moët moh-ett
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo mon-tae-pul-chee-ah-noh dah-brute-zoh
Montrachet mon-rah-shay
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer moh-zel-zar-roo-ver
Muscadet moos-cah-day
Pauillac poy-yac
Perrier-Jouët per-ree-yay-joo-ett
Pinot Grigio pee-noh gree-joe
Pinot Noir pee-noh nwahr
Pouilly-Fuissé pwee-fwee-say
Riesling reese-ling
Rioja ree-oh-hah
Sancerre sahn-air
Spätlese shpate-lay-seh
Viognier vee-oh-nyay
Vosne-Romanée vone-roh-mah-nay
Willamette Valley wil-lam-et

Useful terms for describing wine

When describing wine, wine merchants, restaurant servers, and your oenophile friends will use specific language to tell you about its characteristics. Knowing these words will help you understand the wine they’re describing:

  • Aroma or bouquet: The smell of a wine — bouquet applies particularly to the aroma of older wines

  • Body: The apparent weight of a wine in your mouth (light, medium, or full)

  • Crisp: A wine with refreshing acidity

  • Dry: Not sweet

  • Finish: The impression a wine leaves as you swallow it

  • Flavor intensity: How strong or weak a wine’s flavors are

  • Fruity: A wine whose aromas and flavors suggest fruit; doesn’t imply sweetness

  • Oaky: A wine that has oak flavors (smoky, toasty)

  • Soft: A wine that has a smooth rather than crisp mouthfeel

  • Tannic: A red wine that is firm and leaves the mouth feeling dry

Easy wine identifier

Most wines you find in shops and restaurants are named in two basic ways: for the variety of the grape or for the place the grapes are grown. This instant guide decodes common wine names and tells you the wine’s color.

Wine Name Grape or Place Wine Color
Barbera Grape Red
Bardolino Place/Italy Red
Barolo Place/Italy Red
Beaujolais Place/France Red
Bordeaux Place/France Red or white
Burgundy (Bourgogne) Place/France Red or white
Cabernet Sauvignon Grape Red
Chablis Place/France White
Champagne Place/France White or rosé
Chardonnay Grape White
Chianti Place/Italy Red
Côtes du Rhône Place/France Red or white
Dolcetto Grape Red
Merlot Grape Red
Mosel Place/Germany White
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris Grape White
Pinot Noir Grape Red
Port (Porto) Place/Portugal Red (fortified)
Pouilly-Fuissé Place/France White
Rhine (Rheingau, Rheinhessen) Place/Germany White
Riesling Grape White
Rioja Place/Spain Red or white
Sancerre Place/France White
Sauternes Place/France White (dessert)
Sauvignon Blanc Grape White
Sherry Place/Spain White (fortified)
Soave Place/Italy White
Syrah/Shiraz Grape Red
Valpolicella Place/Italy Red
Viognier Grape White
Zinfandel Grape Red or pink

Buying wine with confidence

Don’t get frazzled when you’re shopping for wine. Browsing and buying wine should be a fun, positive experience. Remember these helpful hints when you hit the wine shop:

  • No one in the world knows everything about wine.

  • Smart people aren’t afraid to ask “dumb” questions.

  • The purpose of wine is to be enjoyed.

  • Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll enjoy it more.

  • I am my own best judge of wine quality.

  • Most wines are good wines.

  • Experimentation is fun.

  • Advice is free for the asking.

  • Every bottle of wine is a live performance.

  • I’ll never know . . . until I try it!

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Ed McCarthy is a wine writer, Certified Wine Educator, and wine consultant. McCarthy is considered a leading Champagne authority in the U.S. He is the Contributing Editor of Beverage Media. Mary Ewing-Mulligan is the first woman in America to become a Master of Wine, and is currently one of 50 MWs in the U.S. and 380 in the world.

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