The wine industry is forever chortling about all the Verd-del-hoes, Mossel’s, “Semillon”-Blancs, Card-on-nays and the occasional discussion on Cabernet Sauvignon as being a blend between the “two” grapes. Once of my favourites has been the ever faithful “Can I please try the… V..Vi..Vo.. Voyager?”
I am sure the French are not so arrogant to expect the rest of the world to speak French. Afterall they do tolerate the Italian pronunciation of the “t” in Merlot. (But only barely) LOL
One of the more obscure queries in Cellar Door about the once rare Viognier’s origins came from a Frenchman. He had the gall to ask an Aussie whether Australia had named the grape? Her reply was said with the finest roll of the tongue she could afford: “Why on Earth would an Australian name a grape Viognier?” Wouldn’t an Aussie take the easier path? the Frenchman saw himself as somewhat an expert on French wine. He had no idea that the Rhone region uses Viognier and that his people had ignorantly almost sent the grape extinct in the past. Australia had only “borrowed” their Shiraz Viognier co-fermenting technique, and I am proud to name that Australian winemakers have conquerered the technique such as Clonakilla.
It makes me fantasise as to whether the romance and allure of all the fancy enunciations of wine terms would be lost if Australian slang took over more than a “Cab Sauv” or “Chardy”. Does the way we say a word value-add it in any way? Do we drink “Sauv Blanc” because it makes our life better, out of convenience, fashion or for the plain cultural value?
Would we still appreciate the plonk if thats all it is? I believe there are great implications of this in the Australian market. Many consumers from what I know drink what they like or what market trends subconsciously tell them they like. But sometimes consumers are too afraid or intimidated to order the “Voyager” in case they embarrass themselves. Many consumers have the money, the drive, the interest, the motive but lack some simple information – the key to ordering what they want. How on earth is that pronounced? Would the sommelier judge them if they didnt say Viognier right?
High praise goes to Yalumba here. Why? Not because they had the first commercial plantings of Viognier in Australia, and not because they were some of the first Viognier’s on the Supermarket Shelves. In an effort to improve the profile of Viognier as a variety, Yalumba drove a major Australian Campaign only a few years ago. On Billboards across Australia and in Magazines and other Print media, Viognier sprawled into the wine marketplace. Their efforts were noteworthy – their campaign simply read VEE-ON-YAY! Can I give three cheers to Yalumba’s marketing team? Hooray! They educated the consumer in a way the consumer wouldn’t even know. Yet, next time you see it on a wine list you can proudly ask for the “Vee-on-yay”.
I was once asked by a customer as to why they had never seen straight varietals like Petit Verdot, Chambourcin, or Viognier before. Plain and simple. Australia is a product of its motherlands and we are very traditional in our ways. If we didn’t mimic the old world wine countries in their styles, the market may not have bought our wines. It is only recently over the past decade or so that Australian Winemakers have taken themselves seriously enough to tackle entrepreneurial styles. Sparkling Red MUMMAH! Straight Petit Verdot OOHH! What is the wine world coming to? There are varietals coming out of the woodworks that I have not even tried before. I was very fond of Lowe Wine’s Tinja Roussanne, and I am very keen to get my hands on the mysteries of unknown varietals.