Pinotage and Chenin embarrass Brits

Tuesday, 21 December, 2004
Peter May
Chenin Blanc & Pinotage, major South African varieties, have made the Top 10 in a survey of international wines by UK consumers. But don't start celebrating because these are names British wine drinkers avoid because they don't know how to say them.
A survey of over 500 'Chef & Brewer' customers carried out by the UK pub restaurant chain reveals that over half (52 %) ask for Chardonnay or a house wine to avoid embarrassment by mispronouncing wine names. The poll also shows that two-thirds (62 %) rated their knowledge of wine as poor to average and rely on TV programmes and friends to suggest something new. The ten names consumers found most difficult to pronounce are: - Gewürztraminer - Pouilly Fumé - Rioja - Cabernet Sauvignon - Viognier - Chenin Blanc - Pinotage - Pinot Grigio - Côtes du Rousillon - Chorley les Beaune Clare Vintner, director of drinks at Chef & Brewer said: 'It's such a shame that people are too nervous to ask for different wines as they are worried they will say the names wrong. There are some fantastic wines to try, which people would really enjoy if they ordered them. We hope we can help more customers enjoy delicious wines.' Chef & Brewer are making a special effort this Christmas to assist customers with recommendations for wines to accompany their Christmas lunch and will advise on the correct pronunciation in order to encourage them to try something new. A spokesperson told me 'all our staff receive training on our wines including what they taste like and how to correctly pronounce their names. Our wine courses are supervised by Tim Atkin, Master of Wine and wine writer for the Observer newspaper.' 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, 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 may 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 Wines of South Africa could consider sponsoring some new characters including centre-forward Pieter Pinotage and his beautiful actress girlfriend Chenin. Over 500 Chef & Brewer customers were surveyed between 28th June and 4th July 2004, split regionally across the UK. There are more than 130 Chef & Brewer pubs in Britain.