I’m really happy I took 4 years of Spanish back in high school. I admit that, living in San Diego and being nearly able to throw a rock over the Mexican-American border, that having a good knowledge of a close neighbor’s language wasn’t a bad thing to have in my pocket. Then I started to getting into wine. And wine and Mexico don’t exactly go together (there are wine producing regions in Mexico, but there are wine growing regions in Michigan too).

In learning about the various grapes of the wine world, it took me some time to not only understand where they were grown, but just how to properly pronounce them. One of the names I’m sure I stumbled over more than once is Viognier. Phonetically it’s pronounced Vee-Own-yay. It’s French, a language not even close to Spanish.

Instead of getting it remotely close in pronunciation, I completely go, for complete fun, in the opposite direction and say Wagner. No, not the power tool. The German composer Richard Wagner. His pronunciation is Vaug-kner. I figured why not use an equally mispronounced composer and go 2-for-1?

There’s a deeper meaning behind using the pronunciation Wagner of attempting to get Viognier correct. It’s that wine should be fun. We’ve all mispronounced words. It won’t be my first and it won’t be my last. And nearly every time I’ve blatantly butchered the grape, 1) the staff member knew which wine I was referring to, and 2) got a great laugh out of it.

The next time you’re in a tasting room, say up at Frick Winery who produces Viognier, just do your best at getting the pronunciation down. That or just say Wagner.


P.S. If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what musical piece or pieces Wagner produced, I give you exhibit A:

The song is taken from the Opera Die Walkure, Act II: Ride of the Valkyries, by Richard Wagner. Here is a more grown up version: