French wines might be world-class, but their names can be a mouthful for English speakers. To help you out, we’ve picked 14 French wine names (varietals and regions) that are tricky to articulate, with tips and audio to help you sound like a native wine buff.
We start with the world’s most popular red grape varietal and a name that is utterly French. Cabernet Sauvignon is a relatively new grape, a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
Bordeaux is the French capital of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, notably from grand wine estates like Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Latour.
Like so many French wines, the secret is in the silent letters (drop the “t” and the “g”). This audio clip is the perfect example.
As the name suggests, Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape varietal. It is another widely-used grape that couldn’t be more French-sounding.
The name is likely derived from the French for wild (sauvage) and white (blanc). Commonly grown in the Loire Valley and New Zealand, this is a favorite for pairing with fish and cheese.
Here’s how to say Sauvignon Blanc like a Loire Valley local.
Good ‘ole pinot noir has a global profile and distinctly gallic name.
Etymology traces the name to the French word for pine (pin) and black (noir). Although difficult to harvest and press, the black grape is incredibly versatile. The grape of choice in Burgundy, it also stars in champagne, sparkling wines, and wines from Oregon and California.
Once again, it’s a silent letter that trips up non-native speakers. In this case, pretend there is no “t” at the end of pinot. Or listen to this French speaker clarifying how to pronounce Pinot Noir.
Beaujolais Nouveau (New Beaujolais) is harvested annually and has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity among French wine names, with festivals and tastings nationwide every November on “Beaujolais Nouveau Day.”
Beaujolais crus (vintages) have always been sought after by oenophiles. No French wine name sounds as joyful when said correctly, as this recording demonstrates.
Syrah (aka Shiraz) does not sound distinctly French. And its origins may be cloudier than the full-bodied red wine it produces. Yet it is a wine closely associated with the Rhône Valley in eastern France.
In the US, Washington State is a good source of Syrah wines. Although outside France, wines are typically labeled Shiraz.
Should you stumble upon a French AOC wine, here’s how to say Syrah like an expert.
An ever-popular vin de table (table wine), merlot appears in red wine blends and single varietals, particularly vintages from Bordeaux.
New World Wines can often taste different from French merlot. But whatever vineyard your bottle hails from, that “t” at the end is always silent. As you can hear in this clip.
The golden Sémillon grape is key to making sweet dessert wines like Sauternes and dry blends from Bordeaux.
Taking its name from the historic village at the heart of wine production outside Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion, Sémillon is one of many thorny French words that include a double L.
Check out this audio to help nail saying Sémillon, with the correct emphasis on those nearly-silent letters.
Chenin Blanc’s high acidity is not wildly popular among French wine names. However, it blends well with sparkling and dessert wines from the Loire Valley. It is commonly used in South African winemaking, probably imported by persecuted Huguenots in the 17th century.
One of many French words that begin with a “Ch” that sounds like “Sh” (chateau, for example), it is a handy word to master. We’ve got you covered with an audio illustrating how to say chenin blanc flawlessly.
Another of those French wine names where the “ch” sound matters, Grenache is a red wine varietal grown in hot climates, notably Provence in southern France. It is also popular across the border in Spain, where it is called Garnacha and used in rioja and fortified wine blends.
Grenache pairs well with meat and hearty French dishes (you can find a few examples in our guide to common French Foods, including boeuf bourguignon).
One of the easier mots (words) on this list to pronounce, as this clip saying Grenache with panache illustrates.
We close out this list of French wine names (you are probably mispronouncing) with one of the more obscure entries. And another one where the silent last letter can trip up French learners.
Colombard is a white grape found in wines from Gascony, typically used in cognac and Armagnac. But the grape also turns up in table wines and South African bottles, where it is recognized as colombar. Which is how it sounds in French, as this pronunciation of Colombard proves.
French wine regions (how to pronounce)
Having popped the last cork on French wine pronunciations, we’ve got space for a few more helpful audio clips. As wine regions often serve as shorthand for French wine names, you may find them handy for navigating the international wine section of your local store.
Languedoc-Roussillon is a region in the South of France that includes Provence, famed for rosé wines, lavender, and its charming Mediterranean character. It’s also a tongue-twister for new students of the French language, so this faultless pronunciation of Languedoc-Roussillon might help.
Côtes du Rhône
Côtes du Rhône is an AOC-protected wine designation that covers all colors of wine from the Rhône region, primarily Grenache. Putting the focus on the accent over the O, Côtes du Rhône is an intriguing wine with an equally curious pronunciation.
Côtes du Rhône
The River Moselle feeds vineyards in the Grand Est of France, Germany, and Switzerland, which helps it stand out from other French wines. If you’re unsure about the articulation, this recording of how to say Moselle has the answer.
We had to include the most celebrated region to wrap up our list of French wine pronunciations. Not least because it’s another example of that silent last letter that is standard in the French vocabulary.
Here’s our favorite French voice with how to pronounce Bordeaux with an impeccable accent.
French Wine Names: Santé
Hopefully, this short guide with French wine pronunciation audio will help you navigate wines like a sommelier living in France.
If this guide has whetted your appetite for more, our guide on how to use boire (drink) correctly may be the next lesson you’re looking for.