Xinomavro: Greek Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project

There’s no other way for me to begin this post than by stating plainly and clearly: I was wrong. At every tasting I have attended or led and in every post and transliteration I have published here since the Boutari Social Media Project launched in April 2010, I have incorrectly transliterated the grape name Xinomavro.*

The correct pronunciation — as I learned recently on my trip to Greece, thanks to Constantine Boutari (above) — is:


The Greeks are an extraordinarily generous people, who greet their visitors and guests with a hospitality and graciousness rivaled only by their illustrious past and present as the curators of the cradle of Western Civilization.

When you consider that ancient Greek was the language of the earliest redactions of the Judeo-Christian Bible and that the Greek koiné was a language spoken throughout the Mediterranean basin (including Palestine and Italy, btw) in antiquity, it’s easy to understand why the Greeks are so tolerant of mispronunciations of their vocabulary.

For nearly a year and a half, I have been working in and around Greek wine, often coming into contact with Greek winemakers and Greek-national restaurateurs. Yet no one has ever correctly my erroneous pronunciation of Xinomavro.

Not until last week, when I had the great fortune to lunch with Constantine Boutari, the owner and namesake of his family’s winery.

With avuncular tenderness, he reached across the table after we had finished the meal and put his hand over mine: “My dear Jeremy,” he said, “I am very excited about the [Boutari Social Media] project. But we must correct your pronunciation of Xinomavro. The correct pronunciation is ksee-NOH-mah-vroh.”

I asked Constantine if I could film him pronouncing the grape name correctly and the above — and very simpatico — video is the result.

There are different conventions used to represent the letter x (xi) in Latin alphabet transliteration (and in Greeklish, as Greek transliteration is often called). I have chosen to represent it here as ks because I believe it best renders the sound.

It was a thrill to meet Constantine, who is a delightful and charming man. And we had a lot of fun with the video we made last week. I have also included, below, a shorter video with winemaker Vasilis Georgious — who oversees production of Boutari’s flagship appellation Naoussa — pronouncing the grape name. Please feel free to repost either one of the videos on your blog or for your students.

* I had erroneously reported tsee-NOH-mah-vroh, where the xi was incorrectly represented by tsee.

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13 Comments on “Xinomavro: Greek Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project”

  1. […] In the days that followed, said blogger, an accomplished linguist, learned that he had been incorrectly pronouncing the name of the most noble red grape variety in Greece, Xinomavro. […]

  2. oriste Says:

    “The letter x or “chi” in Greek appears in the grape name Ξινόμαυρο (Xinomavro) followed by the high vowel i and is pronounced as a voiceless palatal fricative. There are many different conventions used to represent it in the Latin alphabet (and in Greeklish, as Greek transliteration is often called). I have chosen to represent it here as ks because I believe it best renders the sound.”

    You’re mixing up some things here: the Greek letter ‘χΧ’ is called ‘chi’ indeed, but has nothing to do with ‘Xinómavro’, which is the correct Latin-character representation of the Greek word Ξινόμαυρο (capitalized) or ξινόμαυρο (small initial). What we are dealing with here is the ‘ksi’ (or ‘ksee’ for English speakers) sound, like we find in ‘extra’ or ‘xenophobia’. This letter is almost always transliterated into ‘xX’ in the Latin alphabet. It is definitely NOT a voiceless palatal fricative, but a simple binary consonant.

    I very much enjoyed the rest of the article.

    • Do Bianchi Says:

      Oriste, you are 100% correct! Thank you for pointing out the error. I have corrected it accordingly. Frankly, I am embarrassed by my personal lack of mastery of Greek (especially when my Italian, Latin, Spanish, and French are pretty good). Thank you for the correction. And it seems, in any case, that we agree on the transliteration. Thanks for reading!

      • oriste Says:

        Don’t feel embarrassed. Like you I have a pretty good command of a number of Germanic and Romanic languages, but after 8 years living in Greece I have to admit to my shame that my Greek is waaaaaayyyy below the level I had assumed it to be after so many years. Luckily there is language theory and grammar to make me feel good 😛

  3. Do Bianchi Says:

    Oriste, I’ve began studying a little before I left and while I was there… I don’t know if you saw my post on my blog about using the word “philology” in conversation and being happily surprised when all the Greek speakers in the room new exactly what I was talking about! 🙂 In any case, I hope to be able to devote some time to Greek language study over the next few years…

  4. Ace Says:

    ευχαριστώ πολύ, Jeremy

  5. […] to the people who came from Dallas and Houston just for the party. Alfonso Cevola, Guy Stout, and Diane Dixon contributed to the cheer of our vinous evening with crazy wines. My “pugliesi” friends […]

  6. […] September, I’ll be expanding the Greek Grape and Appellation Name Pronunciation Project and I’ll also be posting more images and stories from my June trip to […]

  7. […] In the days that followed, said blogger, an accomplished linguist, learned that he had been incorrectly pronouncing the name of the most noble red grape variety in Greece, Xinomavro. […]

  8. […] Until recently, when I thought of Greek wine, I immediately thought of Assyrtiko from Santorini. However, I recently had a couple of opportunities to taste through some Greek reds – first at the tasting New Wines of Greece held here in Montreal, and again at a tasting they organized for the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, B.C. And I have to say, I’m impressed with the reds, especially those made from the Xinomavro grape. (For a lesson on how to pronounce Xinomavro, check out this video.) […]

  9. […] make the names a little confusing is that the English translation can be rendered differently — xinomavro can read “xynomavro” and agiorgitiko can read “aghiorghitiko” on certain […]

  10. […] perhaps it seems a little harder to pronounce xinomavro [ksee-NOH-mah-vroh] or agiorgitiko [ah-yohr-YEE-tee-koh] than to say sangiovese or tempranillo or […]

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