Pronouncing the names of foreign wines, particularly French ones, can be confusing — even anxiety inducing. And then there are those who just can’t wait to mock people who mispronounce popular (and often expensive) wines. Before we get to the issue of Moët, let’s turn to what Jay-Z once rapped about another expensive brand of Champagne (one he doesn’t drink anymore):
You can’t even drink Crist-OWL on this one
You gotta drink Crist-ALL
So do you pronounce the Moët in Moët & Chandon? Mo-Aye? Nope:
The correct way to pronounce it is ‘Mo’wett’.
Moët is indeed French champagne and was founded in 1743 by Claude Moët.This is where it gets confusing. Moët was born in France in 1683; however, his name is not French, it is Dutch, which is why it is pronounced thus, says Helen Vause, public relations spokesperson for Moët & Chandon in New Zealand. ‘He was descended from a family of winemakers established in the Champagne region since the fourteenth century,’ says Ms Vause.
The word Chandon was added in 1832 after Pierre-Gabriel Chandon’s daughter married into the Moët family. It is generally accepted that French words drop the ‘t’ but when the word is followed by a word starting with a vowel the ‘t’ is usually pronounced, which is another theory people tout as the reason for it being ‘Mo’wett’.
However, in this case the general rule does not apply says Myreille Pawliez, senior lecturer in French at Victoria University. ‘Proper nouns in French, which include names of people and places, don’t follow the general rule and because there are so many exceptions it can get confusing,’ she says.‘In this case it is two proper names put together (Moët et Chandon) and you just have to know how to pronounce them.’
Did that clear things up? No? Don’t worry, because there’s more!
‘With the word “et” you never voice the “t”,’ says Ms Pawliez.