It’s (Gree) Not (Grisss)


I had to laugh the other night while having dinner in a local restaurant.  The patrons next to us ordered a bottle of wine, confidently requesting “Pinot Grisss”, with lots of heavy emphasis on the “isssss”, as their wine of choice for the evening. 

I shouldn’t have laughed.  Really I shouldn’t have.  But I’m horrible like that. Don’t worry… they didn’t hear me.  I wanted the waitress to correct them though, ”You mean PEE-noh Gree?” but she didn’t.  Maybe she was worried about her tip or was trying hard not to laugh herself. 

I think the intimidation for ordering wine is even greater at fine dining establishments employing a sommelier (sum-muhl-YAY).  The sommelier is there to help guide restaurant guests in the best wine choice possible in terms of their meal, palate and pocketbook.  It can be intimidating to speak up and request something from somewhere like Chateauneauf-du-Pape (shah-toh-nuhf-doo-PAHP), if you have absolutely NO IDEA how to pronounce the words. 

I should be more forgiving.  I know for a fact, as many have confessed to me, some people shy away from ordering particular wines simply because they are afraid of making a pronunciation mistake in front of friends and clients. 

It makes me wonder if this was the reason Merlot (mer-LOH) was at one time more popular than Cabernet Sauvignon (ka-behr-NAY so-vee-NYAWN).  Maybe people were intimidated to pronounce the Sauvignon ending, so they didn’t order it!  I hope we’ve gotten over that. 

My point is not to ramble on about the mispronunciation of wine varietal names but to talk about a grape I fell in love with after it exploded in wine popularity not long ago.  Luckily Pinot Gris enjoyment has not been impeded by the Gris (Gree) ending in its name.

I have loved Pinot Gris since the first time I came in contact with this beautiful, fragrant wine.  Maybe it’s because in the French region of Alsace, Pinot Gris is considered one of the many ”noble grapes”.  Or could it be the luscious melon and pear aromas with hints of spicy citrus notes that really highlight this wine’s unique ability to please.

When experiencing Pinot Gris from the Alsace region you can also expect an earthiness to come through on the palate, adding complexity to the wines overall nuances.

However, when drinking Pinot Gris from the New World, places like Oregon, California and New Zealand, the distinctive earthy terroir (teh-RWAHR) is non-existent and only the more fruity characteristics shine through.  This is not a negative quality but is often a notable difference found amongst Old World and New World Pinot Gris.

Also note that Pinot Grigio is the same grape as Pinot Gris.  Pinot Grigio is wine produced from grapes grown in Northern Italy.  Wines from this region really showcase citrus flavors and tend to be lighter in style.


2006 A to Z Pinot Gris, Oregon $12
2006 Navarro Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, Mendocino $18

These are two of my favorite Pinot Gris wines right now.  They both have the lovely, fragrant qualities I enjoy in this varietal.

The A to Z Pinot Gris bursts with honeysuckle and white peach aroma with subtle hints of citrus in the background.  It is an easy drinking wine that smoothly coats the palate with a slight buttery characteristic.  I have to almost imagine a malolactic fermentation was performed in some capacity on this wine, maybe on a smaller lot and later blended with other lots that did not receive this same treatment.  This would explain the slight buttery-cream flavor I recognize coming through.

This wine is not heavy on the finish but is a wonderful food-friendly choice, perfect for summer and the many entertaining opportunities to be had in the upcoming months.

Navarro Pinot Gris is another stunning example of Navarro’s consistent quality winemaking. 

I have been a member of Navarro’s wine club for more years than I can remember.  I always have a plethora of their wines in my home to choose from, as they are by far one of my favorite wineries in California. 

Navarro is a small family operation and has been producing wines in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino since 1974.  I love receiving my bi-annual shipments from them and visiting their tasting room when the opportunity arises.  If you have ever considered a wine club membership, I would highly recommend trying them out.  Not only is the wine great, it’s highly affordable as well.

The Navarro Pinot Gris is a clear example of what you expect in this type of wine.  Aromas of pear, white stone fruit and nutty flavors all penetrate the nose while tasting.  On the palate it has a bright, lively acidity with a lasting finish.  It’s a perfect summer wine to open and enjoy.

Overall, Pinot Gris is a wonderful accompaniment to Asian flavored meals, especially stir-fried combinations of shellfish.  It also works nicely with grilled chicken or sausages.  If you want to pair Pinot Gris with a cheese course I would stick with a mild cheddar or Fontina to start.

If you have never tried Pinot Gris I would highly suggest giving it a try, I think you’ll enjoy its whimsical fruitiness.

Did anyone have a hard to pronounce drink last night?

*These wines have been added to the Wine Shopping List available in the sidebar area to the left.  Enjoy!

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36 Comments

  1. HoneyB 1

    I’m embarrassed to say that I may be one person who could pronounce a name incorrectly! BUT if I were to be laughed at for it, I would probably tend to laugh with! Your site is going to become a world of knowledge for me Cathy! 😀

    Reply
  2. Funny. My friend Lucia had a date with a guy who fancied himself an expert. He ordered his pinot gree by saying Pinote Greegeeo. Second gee like in geek. Cute. She went to the bathroom and tried to climb out the window.

    Reply
  3. I didn’t have a hard to pronounce drink last night, but I do have a story to share…

    I was a waitress when I was 20 years old and I had an older couple come in one night and ask me for a “half carafee of rosie”. It took all of my will power not to laugh in their faces. I remained calm until I got to the waiter/waitress station where I almost fell over in tears. I also had an English man come in and order a glass of chianti. He sounded so much like Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs I almost passed out in fear.

    Reply
  4. Lori 4

    This is SO funny, for many reasons. But a related reason is this: an Aussie friend of mine once told me that the proper way to pronounce Shiraz – those from Australia – is SHEErazz. Not shiRAHZ. So here I am in fancy Manhattan with my undeniably Texan accent, thinking, “even if it is correct, people here don’t know it and will just think I’m a dumb hick.”

    I think this every single time I want to order that wine and balk, in a paralyzed way, over how to pronounce it. I always go with the “wrong” way. Sorry, Anna. I do know better.

    Reply
  5. Hard Cider (sigh-der). With a wedge of fresh lime.
    Really, I need to print out your wine list and take it to costco today!

    Reply
  6. grace 6

    there are so many words that i avoid saying just because i’m unsure of their pronunciation. i appreciate your brief lesson here! :) yes, i opt to point at the menu and feel only slightly foolish rather than say the words wrong and be a complete fool. :)

    Reply
  7. Kiki 7

    Trimbach Pinot Gris is one of my favorites, for about $18 a bottle. Sadly, not in the current budget. (If I could spend the money on wine that I’m spending on gas, I would be a much happier gal!)

    I like when the waiter/ress subtly corrects me. “Here is the Pee-noh Gree for the lady and the martini for the man she is with who knows to order only what he can pronounce ”

    Reply
  8. We had scotch again last night – I can pronounce that :) !

    Thank you for the Pinot Gris picks! I like whites and tend to go for my favorite Chardonnay instead of trying something else. But I did get the Albarino last week and will have that again!

    Reply
  9. I don’t know much about wine but I *think* I know how to pronounce them correctly (at least the French ones!). I didn’t take 12 years of French for nothin’!

    Last night we had “Cardinal Zin” (2005). I was wine shopping for Father’s Day w/ one of my kids and he liked the label! I thought it was good but, like I said, I’m far from an expert!

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  10. Harmony 10

    *giggle*..I am the same way!

    Reply
  11. I truly am a wine nincompoop. Love good wine and can tell when it’s a really crappy wine, but the subtleties escape me, it saddens me to say.
    Yep, I’m one of those that nearly always has Chardonnay. But yesterday at the wine store, they were having a wine tasting and were serving a Soave and a Reisling. I tried them both. The Reisling was good but not one I would want on a regular basis. The Soave was wonderful! I could definitely have that on a daily basis!

    I really do appreciate your tutorials – and I will be branching out now, thanks to you, Cathy!

    Reply
  12. Ruth 12

    this made me think of an episode of ‘Futurama ‘ when one of the characters kept calling champagne ‘Sham-pag-un’ :)

    I always get confused over mojitos… I know the ‘j’ is pronounced ‘h’, but in some bars the staff get it wrong, and in some places its spelt wrong! not that I go to ver classy cocktail bars of course…

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  13. I am in all the way to try both wines:D

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  14. Since I work in a doctor’s office, and I swear one of my docs has patients with the strangest names…I learned just ask how to say it! lol

    So while I probably wouldn’t be able to pronounce it cause I only took Spanish and German I would just go I can’t say this give me that! lol

    Reply
  15. Last night I was drinking Pepto Bismal.

    Reply
  16. dlyn 16

    After years of waitron-ing in fine dining places, I lost all fear. If I don’t know how to pronounce something on a menu – food or drink – I ask the waitperson. I know that 95% of them will respect my admitting to ignorance more than my lame attempts at boasting more knowledge than I really possess. Which isn’t that hard for me to do, come to think of it. And you are my new go-to gal for wine info. Will be enjoying a Syrah with our steak tonight 😉

    Reply
  17. Jill 17

    It’s a shame that Navarro will only place their wines in restaurants and not with retailers (at least in Southern California). I would have liked to stock this and others from this great winery.

    Thanks for the great piece as usual!

    Reply
  18. jancd 18

    Oh, I have so much to learn about wine. Glad I found a good teacher. As a Texan, I’ll have to practice before I order. Pointing may have to get me through, too.

    Reply
  19. Lex the Mom 19

    I have been able to pronounce those tough French sounding words since I took French in 7th Grade. Probably the reason I can is because of that class!

    The Pinot Gris sounds like it has a flavor I would enjoy! I like the way you describe the aromas & such – that’s something you are certainly very adept at (and when I get the wine, I will be trying to capture those aromas). I’m wondering if I can find either of those labels here in the Midwest? If not, is there another national label that might compare? Something for me to investigate!

    Reply
  20. I don’t know the first thing about wine, but I could pronounce most of those words fairly well. It’s the one benefit I can think of for my one year of French in high school. After my freshman year I moved to a school that offered only German and took three years of that. Being able to pronounce French and German words or words of French or German origin in menus and books and deciphering an occasional German headstone are about the only uses I’ve found for my very limited knowledge of either language.

    Reply
  21. Stacy 21

    I just wanted to tell you that I was just at Mike’s Table and I saw the comment you made about baby corn. I’m not sure why, but this had me cracking up. I think it was the phrase “some kind of a pregnant woman attack,” and the fact that baby corn could drive such an attack. So funny!

    Reply
  22. Flea 22

    I don’t struggle so much pronouncing wine names, having had three years of French in high school, but when ordering Thai I just point to the menu. No way I’m pronouncing those dishes.

    Reply
  23. I’ve been known to butcher a foreign word on occasion (I’m hearing impaired on top of that…) but I go for it anyway. That said, when the waiter/waitress is rude with their correction of my pronounciation, I remember when it’s tip time. If they are friendly when I’m tripping over a word, I’m thankful and try to remember the proper way to say whatever it is. Depending on how much I’ve drunk of course…

    Reply
  24. As an American born (but raised in Thailand), Gewürztraminer is the hardest wine term to pronounce for me :) I can frankly say that even some sommeliers makes a fool of themselves when pronouncing some wine terms. I was in a training class for a sommelier certification by the Court of Master Sommelier two years ago and saw a young well-known egotistical sommerlier of a distinguished Boston restaurant even failed the class. I have met some wine makers who is also certified sommelier as well. This may be helpful. link to courtofmastersommeliers.org

    BTW, Trimbach and A-Z are one of my favorites. I enjoy Pinot Gris with Thai food, especially spicy dishes.

    Reply
  25. I work in a restaurant that has a decent wine list. You would not believe how some people pronounce Pinot Grigio. I even heard “Pea-not Grig-hee-oh” And, yes- servers talk about those people when we go to the kitchen.

    Reply
  26. My favorite subject. Erm, after food, of course. As far as drinks go, today, a nice pro-SAY-koh. Light, a bit of citrus, just slightly sweet. Nice.

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  27. Jules 27

    I have a friend who once ordered Mouton Cadet…however she pronounced it Ma-Dot, Ka-Dot!
    LMAO then enjoyed the wine:)

    Reply
  28. Lara 28

    Oh dear. I have been mispronouncing “Gris” as “grease” (sort of). Whoopsie.

    I had a McManis Viognier last night. Hopefully I got that one right (vee-yawn-yay?)

    Reply
  29. Elle 29

    I had a lovely fresh brewed iced tea. Not hard to pronounce, I hope, hehe!

    Reply
  30. Erinn 30

    Navarro is one of my all time favorite wineries. We visited them last summer and they were nice people to boot!
    My favorite wine ooops I over head was Mouton Cadet (pronounced Mountian Ca-DETT) it was awesome!

    Reply
  31. Mrs. L 31

    The problem with Chateauneauf-du-Pape is that I love the word. I tend to just say it for the heck of it. I find it sexy. Of course I like the wine too and would be ordering it all the time if I could afford to. Chateauneauf-du-Pape. Chateauneauf-du-Pape. Dang, you got me started.

    Reply
  32. Mike 32

    I’ve resorted to pointing at the menu like its some sort of picture book, lol. I can say the varietals just fine, but the producer name is another story…

    Reply
  33. Jody 33

    Or my other new fave oenophilic term…thrown around by amateurs…

    Can I have the CAB SAV? Totally dropping the “ah” sound in Sauvignon…so it’s like Bostonian Pak the Cah in the yahd…but CAB SAV…
    Terrible….
    thanks for the wine selections…will have to try

    Reply
  34. Jody 34

    And in Somerset England…where cider is born…the locals say ZIIIIIIIII DER

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  35. And I really thought the correct way to pronounce it is Grisssss..hehe. Thanks for correcting me. :)

    Reply
  36. Sometimes I don’t order the food or drinks because I don’t know how to pronounce it correctly.

    Reply

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