Francais. The language of love; phrases of passion, words of desire and romance. Also, one of the most difficult languages to pronounce for native English speakers. Ever find yourself standing in the middle of a wine shop with zero idea of how to pronounce the words on the bottle? Fear no more! We’ve put together a cheat sheet for decoding French wine region pronunciation that’ll have you lookin’ like a City of Light native in no time.
Bordeaux – [bore-DOUGH] – Located just off central-south western coast of France, mainly known for its red blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, white blends from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, and sweet dessert wines. The five first-growth chateaux are found here.
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Bourgogne – [bore-GUNya] – Famed region of western France producing white wine from Chardonnay and red wine from Pinot Noir, with small exceptions. The origin of the term terroir stems from this highly regarded region.
Beaujolais – [bOH-shoh-lay] – Considered by some to be a part of Burgundy, though extremely different in terms of terroir and soils. Gamay is the grape used to produce red wine.
Champagne – [sham-PAH-nyuh] – Or simply, sham-PANE in America, is acceptable. Most famous sparkling-wine producing region in the world, made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.
(Côtes du) Rhône – [coat-doo-RONE] – For God’s sake, DO NOT pronounce the “s” in Côtes! Encompasses the valley surrounding the Rhône river, broken into “northern” and “southern” parts, with over 90 percent of wine production carried out in the southern half.
Jura – [shur-AH] – Cool-climate wine region tucked between Burgundy and Switzerland, known for its vin jaune (yellow wine) production, similar in style to Sherry production.
Languedoc – [lang-uh-dock] – Largest wine-producing region in the world, comprising one-third of France’s wine production. Wines are generally blends and very affordable. Situated on Mediterranean coastline between Spain and Provence.
Loire Valley – [luh-WAHR vah-lee] – Comprised of 87 appellations along the Loire River, from the Atlantic Ocean to Sancerre in central France. All varieties of wine are produced here (red, white, sparkling, rosé, sweet), though white wines made of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc dominate production.
Savoie – [sav-WAH] – Situated in eastern France below Jura, with white wines predominantly made from Jacquere, Roussanne, and Altesse grapes, and reds from Mondeuse.
Appellations are legally defined geographical indications within major regions with specifically enforced grape varietal and winemaking practices. These enforcements vary from appellation to appellation.
St. Emilion – [sant-em-ill-ee-ohn] – Major appellation in Bordeaux, found on the right bank of the Dordogne river. Red blends are Merlot- dominant. Certified UNESCO site.
Chablis – [shub-LEE] – Northernmost appellation of Burgundy, producing white wine from the Chardonnay grape. Many view Chablis as a separate entity from Burgundy (much like Beaujolais) due to the drastically different style of wine produced here.
Pouilly-Fuissé – [pwee-fwee-say] – White-wine producing region in southern Burgundy, made from Chardonnay grape.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape – [shat-do-nuff-doo-pahp] – The first classified appellation in France’s AOC system (early 1900s.) Located in the southern part of Rhône valley, known for strong, full-bodied red blends dominated by Grenache; very small amounts of white wine are produced here as well.
Sancerre – [sohn-SARE] – One of the easternmost appellations of the Loire Valley, known for white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc with their trademark mineral notes. Small amounts of red produced from Pinot Noir are also found here.
Muscadet – [MOO-skah-day] – One of the westernmost appellations of the Loire Valley, producing white wines from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Generally affordable and high in acidity. Reputable as a perfect pairing for shellfish, oysters.