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Say it . . . don't slay it.

Posted by Stephen Meuse  February 14, 2012 03:58 PM

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In the introduction to his comprehensive and endlessly useful book "Brunello to Zibibbo: The wines of Tuscany, Central, and Southern Italy, Nicolas Belfrage maintains that correct pronunciation "is an important tool for understanding Italian wines" since "once you get the sound, the flavors too fall into sharper focus."

Though I can't go very far in explaining why this should be so, I strongly endorse the theory - primarily because I find it true in my own experience. Not knowing how to pronounce a foreign place name or obscure grape variety makes the thing all that much more alien and remote. Learn to say it like a native, and you are immediately on intimate terms with it.

The thoughtful and lively Jeremy Parzen, who blogs at must understand this too, since he has recently undertaken to provide a video glossary of Italian wine terms, spoken not just by by natives - but by natives who are also in the wine business.

The Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project is enormously entertaining to scroll through - and there were some surprises in store for me. Among the wines whose flavors will now fall into sharper focus because I've had a lesson in elocution is aglianico del vultura, as articulated by the sweet-faced Sara Carbone, below.

Read Parzen's explanation of how the project got started and view the entire series here: 

And if you find yourself walking around muttering aglianico del vulture, teroldego, or gaglioppo to yourself for the next several days, don't grouse about it to me - I'll be having the same problem.

Stephen Meuse can be reached at

Ellen Bhang

About By the Glass

Ellen Bhang writes about food and wine and reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe. Wine is the focus of her degree in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University. She can be reached at


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