They call the wind, Mariah. Or, I’ll have a Cardonnay, the ‘h’ is silent

Villa Maria CS Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon HB 2010(2)

Names can be funny things. Ask a Nigel.

Tonight I am enjoying a glass of 2010 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon. I love this wine. I reviewed it back on April 1st.  It wasn’t a joke then, and it isn’t one now: it is dark and smells great; a rich mouthful of plums and boysenberries and fruitcake. 4.

Me being an English speaker, and monolingual, there are a few fishhooks to be found in pronouncing the name of the grape blend of this wine. It is no accident that a lot of folks shorten it to Cab Sav.

Yesterday I was listening to an interesting discussion on the radio between Jim Mora and Yvonne Lorkin. Yvonne was talking about how some wine producers were claiming to suffer reduced sales of their Gewurtztraminer or Viognier wines because customers were unsure how to pronounce their names. Rather than be embarrassed, they reckoned a buyer would choose a wine type that they could pronounce, instead of trying a new variety. I don’t know how true this is, but then I don’t remember what I did before I learnt that the ‘w’ is a ’v’, and the ‘g’ is silent and the ‘er’ is ‘ay’.

Those suppliers were thinking about inventing new names for these varieties, perhaps a name with a local or kiwi flavour, or an informal name. The names ‘Trammy’ or “Vinny’ were bandied about. I’m not sure those are an improvement, but it’s an idea.

The radio people talked also about how some Hawkes Bay producers of fine reds were not happy at having their products described as ‘Bordeaux-blends’. They would prefer a name that was more expressive of the local terroir, rather than borrow the nomenclature of an insular wine-producing community on the other side of the world, no matter that it is a useful shorthand to describe the wine-style. I agree, but what? Any ‘premium’ name with a local or Maori connection is likely already be bound-up with an established brand i.e. a red wine blend being a Pohutukawa, or say, Kotuku for a white.

Another issue was the idea of labelling a Chardonnay as Unoaked or Unwooded. This implies to the uneducated consumer that something has been left out, and the resulting wine is inferior. It isn’t – a Chablis, anyone? But you are talking about ‘no oak’ and oak is expensive innit? It is a dilemma, and those producers are also in the market for a name that implies that something great has been created, rather than removed.

Here is my stab at it:

An Unwooded Chardonnay is a Long White Chardonnay (Aotearoa) and a Bordeaux-blend is a Rata. Done.

Ps. The Cardonnay gag in the title is from the great Aussie comedy Kath ‘n Kim. I have dined out on it ever since. Thanks Kim. And the Mariah thing is a song title from the great film, Paint Your Wagon

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