Since the rise of Cheryl Cole and Lord Sugar, popularity of the Queen's English has been replaced by all things Geordie and East End. The rise in interest of regionality has transferred to food too; from the Cumberland sausage to the Cornish pasty and in drink form for London gin, Plymouth gin and beers like Bear Town brewery ale.
When it comes to a wine's provenance, regionality is more important than it's ever been, but there's little forgiveness for variation in the pronunciation of a wines name. Tom-ate-toe, Tom-art-toe, pot-ate-toe, pot-art-toe may work for vegetables but mix your rye-zling with your reez-ling or your temp-ran-ill-low with your temp-ran-ee-yo and you'll be intimidated into silence before you've ordered your drink.
There's no doubt in my mind of the direct correlation between a wines name and it's sales. Certainly in the UK where languages are not our forte, a wine like Grüner Veltliner is unlikely to sell more than a Malbec of the same price. It's for the same reason that I believe Viognier and Riesling have never actually become 'the next big thing' that the wine trade has hyped them to be.
A simple but effective way around this is to use phonetics. If the biggest barrier to sale is ease of pronunciation then what harm can it do to spell it out on a back label or in the description on a wine list?
And yet you'd be surprised how few wine producers are at ease 'patronising' their customers in this way. The only exception I can think of to the sales vs unpronounceable rule is Freixenet (fresh-eh-net) the Spanish sparkling wine producer who despite their alien name is the UK's number 1 sparkling wine brand. But recognising the problem for the export market, even they've created a tool for consumers that's even easier than attempting their name; Freixenet aka the sparkling wine in the black bottle.
A grape I think is on the rise but lives in fear of never quite becoming the next big thing is Verdejo or ver-deck-ko. A wonderfully affordable example of which is Lime Leaf Verdejo 2011 from Laithwaites. A white grape originating from Spain, the best wines of which are grown in Rueda in the country's NW corner. This one is intensely aromatic; less lime leaf, more lime blossom and a citrusy fresh palate. At first glance it may not be easy to pronounce but at £6.99 it's certainly easy to drink!
Corks image from shutterstock