So the French have trouble pronouncing “TH”. As a result when they pronounce a Label such as Chateau La Nerthe, they use a hard “T” instead of “TH”. This begs the question…Just because phonetically they cannot do it and we Americans in most cases can, do we have to say it like the French? I am of the opinion that when in Rome do as the Romans do. In the U.S. I think it is perfectly acceptable to pronounce the “TH” as we do. However, if I were in France I would give it the proper hard “T” pronunciation. A wine snob might object, but I am not a wine snob by any stretch. I do have a close friend who is constantly working on me to pronounce french wine names as the French would. I understand his angst since I have a You Tube channel where I review wines, many of them french. I do my best, and I think that is the appeal of my show. I rarely correct how someone pronounces a wine, unless they ask me to. It’s not my place, and as long as I know what they are talking about, that’s fine with me.
Imagine how many customers I would alienate if I corrected them every time they referred to Cava as Champagne. They are both sparklers, one from Spain and one from France. In fact, they have many similarities, especially in how they are made. I agree that Champagne is a special place and it is nearly impossible to emulate the sparklers they put out. The soil and climate of that area of France is unique and as a result, their sparkling wine is unique. I for my part understand that distinction and I would be appalled if a wine expert did not acknowledge it. However, most consumers are not wine experts, nor do they want to be. They just want to enjoy a good bottle of bubbles and I think they can call it whatever tickles their fancy.
I may have touched on this subject in the past, but it bears repeating. There seems to be some sort of obsession with classifying wines as over-oaked, like that is a flaw in the wine. It’s only a problem (not a flaw) if a an individual has a disdain for oak. Personally, I find oak to be a friend to many wines (why do you think wine makers use it). Cabernet Franc takes on many layers of enjoyment when aged in oak and remember, we are talking my palate here. However, I do not think I am in the minority on this one. Many Cab Franc out there aged in oak are very popular. That being said, I think it would be most appropriate if someone referred to a wine as being under-oaked. Why not? I have tasted many a Cab Franc that could have benefited from a little oak treatment.
One factor that can hurt a wine is if the oak is not properly integrated with the fruit. Poorly made, a wine with a lot of oak can come off as awkward and disjointed. I have tasted Chardonnay that tasted like you were chewing on a board. It’s not the oak’s fault, it’s the wine maker’s fault. Take Rombauer as an example. This Chardonnay is all about oak. However, it is so nicely integrated with the fruit that it comes off as buttery and delicious. Some don’t like that style, but they are few and far between. Rombauer would make the Hall of Fame if there were such a thing for wine and maybe there should be…Now that would be interesting.
I was with a busload of wine folks on a trip to Washington wine country and we were drinking wines chosen by the host as we made our way from Seattle to the eastern side of the state. They served up a Sancerre that was aged in oak barrels. This is not a common thing to do in this area of the Loire Valley and I have to say it caught my palate off guard. It was well made and you should have heard the folks in the bus singing its praises. I had trouble wrapping my brain around the wine, but I had to admit that it had some endearing qualities. However, I would have to say that I prefer under-oaked Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre…Just saying.
Stan The Wine Man