17 September 2005

How do you say Pinotage?

A survey of more than 500 customers of the UK pub restaurant chain Chef & Brewer showed that over half ask for Chardonnay or a house wine to avoid embarrassment by mispronouncing wine names. The ten most difficult names included Chenin Blanc and Pinotage.

To find out how to pronounce Pinotage I travelled to my nearest Chef & Brewer pub, ‘The Old Bell’, in the country town of Harpenden.

“I’d like a glass of wine”, I said to the young barman. He showed me a wine list which included two South African wines, Impala Chenin Blanc and Impala Pinotage. I pointed to the second and asked what it was like.

“The Pinotage?” he replied, correctly pronouncing it ‘pinno-tahj’, and maybe puzzled by my inability to notice its brief description printed on the list (‘modern style, bursting with flavours of damson and spice’).

“I haven’t tried it myself,” he said, “but let me give you a taste so you can see if you like it”, and he reached for a glass and poured a small measure.

Having tested and given Chef & Brewer’s Old Bell full marks for pronunciation and customer service, I relaxed by the fireplace with a full glass of ‘modern style’ Pinotage, shipped in bulk and bottled by Waverley Wines & Spirits in Scotland.

South African wineries are familiar with the British reluctance to grapple with words from other languages, causing some to change names to suit the UK market. But this survey shows that what is in the bottle could be as big a problem. Graham Beck may have the right idea in calling their entry level Pinotage ‘Pinno’.

The top rating British TV series ‘Footballers Wives’ featured a glamorous model named Chardonnay, which helped in making the word familiar to viewers; perhaps WoSA could consider sponsoring some new characters including centre-forward Pieter Pinotage and his beautiful actress girlfriend Chenin.

(first published by http://www.wine.co.za/)

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