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How do I pronounce Moët?

Vintage photo of pouring champagne against holiday lights

 

If you come from a land downunder, it is very likely that you often hear this pronounced ‘Mo aye’. Add to that a little Aussie nasal twang, and you could become mistaken and think that the speaker is referring to a town in regional Victoria (Moe), rather than one of our favourite French Champagnes.

When I first started travelling, I packed my things into my little red car and moved from Melbourne to the Gold Coast. It was the late 80s, and Australia was just discovering international inbound tourism and the Gold Coast was being swamped by bus loads of Japanese visitors. New 5 star hotels were opening, first the Sheraton Mirage and then the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove as part of the multi million dollar Sanctuary Cove development.  It was an exciting time! I joined the Hyatt as part of the opening team, and to this day I would say it was one of the best training programs that I have been through and was a great start for my transition from a career in banking into a career in tourism.

I learnt so much about food and wine, which included how to pronounce Moët.  Our wine expert explained that because the ‘t’ in Moët is followed by a vowel, in  the full name  Moët et Chandon, in French this meant that it is a hard T.  Having studied French in high school, this also made sense to me, and this started my mission to explain to people how to pronounce Moët whenever I had the opportunity.  I’m not meaning to cause anyone embarrassment, but I feel it is necessary to let people know. It’s like when you have something stuck between your teeth, lipstick on your teeth, your dress tucked into your tights, or your tag hanging out of the back of your shirt.  I always feel like you would rather know so that you can fix it rather than continue to go about your business causing ongoing potential embarrassment.  So yes, the pronunciation of Moët, for me, falls into the same category – I feel like I need to let you know.

So ingrained is the mispronunciation that I see people look at me when I do pronounce it ‘Mowett’ with a hard ‘t’. The look they give, the sympathy look, ‘Oh the poor thing, she doesn’t know how to pronounce it, it’s French you know’. These exchanges also add fire to my mission of getting the world of social champagne etiquette back on track, and lose any of the Aussie cultural cringe that I feel this ongoing mispronunciation might cause.

After years of explaining the reason for the hard ‘t’ was that it was followed by a vowel (which also meant that I tended towards saying the whole name Moët et Chandon just to be clear, and avoid that sympathy look), I was fortunate to be working as a tour guide in Europe, and on this particular itinerary a trip to Epernay, in the Champagne region of France was included, and so was a guided tour at Moët et Chandon. I asked the guide the question about pronunciation, including the theory I had learnt about the consonant followed by a vowel.  He very politely responded that yes, it was a hard ‘t’, but there was another reason for this.  Moët is actually a Dutch name, he said, ‘See the umlaut over the ‘ë’?’  Yes I did, and no that hadn’t occurred to me, but it did make sense as an umlaut is not used in French. So there you have it. I went to the winery itself to get the correct pronunciation – it is a hard T.

Moët is of course a French champagne, and was founded in 1743 by Claude Moët. He was descended from a family of winemakers established in the Champagne region since the fourteenth century. At the time it was founded as Moët et Cie (Moët & Co.), the word Chandon was added in 1832 after Pierre-Gabriel Chandon’s daughter married into the Moët family.

So say it loud, say it proud – Moët is pronounced ‘Mowett’. Help me share the word and share this story with your friends to help save any future embarrassment!

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

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60 Comments

  1. Norma Hennessy

    Thank you for the tips. Great to have some bits of info in reserve. Just like to point out that If you go by the relationship of the vowel (e) and the consonant (t) as a clue for the hard pronunciation of the T in MOET, i noticed that the vowel ‘e’ does not follow the T but precedes it.

    • TBR

      Hi Norma, thanks so much for your comment. The vowel follows the t in the full name Moët et Chandon. If you read to the end, there is another reason explained for the hard t. Cheers!

    • Jane Bridgwood

      I thought exactly that, but on reading on, the vowel e that comes after the t is the one at the beginning of the word “et” in the whole term, Moët et Chandon.

  2. Kate

    It’s not followed by a vowel, it is preceded by a vowel. If it was followed by a vowel, said vowel would be AFTER the ‘t’.

    • TBR

      Hi Kate, thanks so much for your comment. The vowel follows the t in the full name Moët et Chandon. If you read to the end, there is another reason explained for the hard t. Cheers!

    • Jennifer

      Thank goodness someone raised this

  3. Roz

    I’ve had this same conversation with a few wine snobs who look at me with undisguised condescension because I obviously don’t know any better.
    Well, Um…yes! I do.
    Where’s that smug FB emoji?

    • TBR

      Hi Roz, thanks so much for your comment. Hopefully this gives you comfort and support to – say it loud say it proud! 🙂

  4. Steph

    I learned how to say it from Killer Queen. Mowet e Chandon. Lol.

  5. Brian

    Freddie Mercury knew a thing or two. 😉

  6. Susan Fawcett

    Yes, as the original derivation is Dutch, it is not a French name so ‘mowett’ is correct

  7. Karen

    Thank you for backing up what I learned years ago although I was told it was because of the umlaut and have been merrily pronouncing Moët correctly since then.

  8. Brunswickgirl

    I think you meant to write that the T is preceded by a vowel, not followed by.
    I was told this story many years ago and do receive the sympathetic look when I pronounce ( I try to avoid it, if I can).
    Also, I would like to say that the term “French” to describe Champagne is actually unnecessary, as Champagne can only be called such if it comes from the Champagne region. I refer to the other wines as “Sparkling whites”

    • TBR

      Hi Brunswickgirl, thanks so much for your comment. The vowel follows the t in the full name Moët et Chandon. And yes that is correct about using the term “French” but thought it useful in this context. There will be an upcoming blog on Champagne v Sparkling. Cheers!

  9. Michael

    Yes we need to educate people who tend to say moeee. I am so glad that you took the trouble to write the article. Well done.

  10. Valda Barron

    We had been told this during a tour of Moët et Chandon in Champagne, many years ago but like you, was amazed at how many people tried to convince me otherwise. once I knew the correct pronunciation I could never pronounce it any other way.

  11. Carleen van Nellestijn

    Who cares how you pronounce it, I just know it tastes the bestest

  12. JRW

    Great that you have written an article on this. I sometime say it correctly others not because I can’t be bothered with “the look” What you are saying however initially I’m afraid doesn’t work. In French the “e” following a t must be part of the same word to make it “T” as you put it. “Petit” -puhtee compared to “Petite” -puhteat if it was “petit et grand” would still be “puhtee eh gron”. Please excuse some of the phoenetic spellings.

    • TBR

      Hi JRW, thanks for your comment. Not sure if that is correct about the French language, my understanding is different. But as we know in the end of the article it is not the French name as the reason for the hard T. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Cheers 🙂

    • KAD

      It would most certainly still be pronounced “peh-teet eh gron” because French pronunciation works in such a way to eliminate glottal stops, which would happen when two vowels meet (if you say “a apple”, you can hear/feel how a glottal stop works). “Peh-tee eh gron” would create a glottal stop, and are not really a thing that occurs in French.

  13. Meg Bollen

    my understanding is that it has nothing to do with French – it is a Dutch word!!! the ‘e’ has an accent that does not exist in French as far as I know I will say it as it is meant to be said having many years ago gone to the official website to solve my dilemma!

  14. Noeleen Stewart

    Thank you for that we have just come back from Europe and found the same thing and also Tattinger is NOT how we say it at all – very hard to get out of that habit I tell you! We have such a crass language compared to some European ones but still so happy to live in this wonderful country. Thanks for the info and look forward to following you.

    • TBR

      Hi Noeleen, thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience. I always say that you can say anything in French and it sounds beautiful – take the sentence – I would like a ham and cheese sandwich compared to – Je voudrais une baguette avec jambon et fromage. But there is nothing quite like coming home after being away and hearing that Aussie twang! 🙂

  15. Ingrid

    Thank you for finally clarifying this for me. We named our cat Moet (since he came from Moe in Victoria and cost a fortune) and have been calling him ‘Mowee’ for 7 years 🙂
    Guess he is going to have to get used to a new name …

  16. Not a problem. From now on I’ll just ask for a bottle of Chando!

  17. Yes I once did some promotional modeling for them and when they told me how to pronounce after 3 years of high school French…I too was confused. However nobody has ever listened to me so thank you

    • TBR

      Hi Trina, thanks for sharing your story. I hope you got to taste some when you were doing the modelling?! 🙂

  18. Megan

    I will now be sure to pronounce the ‘t’. Unless you know it’s Dutch though (as we all do now) it’s hard to pick it – French does have a native double dot (umlaut) like accent called a trema which doesn’t look out of place on Moët to the non-expert (e.g. like Zoë, Noël)

    • TBR

      Thanks Megan, yes a couple of people have mentioned the trema in French language. Thanks for the reminder, yes you do see it but not as common as the other accents. I told the story as it was explained to me by the guide which is why I used the term umlaut. Cheers 🙂

  19. Sue

    This reminds me if the many debates I’ve had with people who do not understand that you say “John and I went to the winery” and you say “Tim, would you like to go to the winery with John and me” (IT’S NOT JOHN AND I!!!!) By the way, I did not know the correct pronunciation of Moet, so many thanks.

  20. Jill

    Thank you for your correct information. This is something I did need to know, as it is truly my favourite champagne. C’est magnifique!

  21. Garry

    Or you could be completely wrong, Moet is a Dutch name and is pronounce “mert”
    I thought Journalist were supposed to do at leas some reasearch.

    • TBR

      Hi Garry, thanks for your comment. Not sure if you read to the end of the article? The research I did is mentioned in the story and it was from my personal visit to the winery. Cheers!

  22. Vadne

    What you referred to as an umlaut, as in Moët, is actually a dieresis.

    An umlaut is a mark used over a vowel, as in German or Hungarian, to indicate a different vowel quality, usually fronting or rounding, example being frau /fräulein.

    A dieresis is a mark place over a vowel to indicate that it is sounded in a separate syllable, examples being ï as in naïf; ë as in noël or Moët

    • TBR

      Hi Vadne, yes a couple of people have mentioned either the dieresis or trema in French language. Thanks for the reminder, yes you do see it but not as common as the other accents. I told the story as it was explained to me by the guide on my visit to the winery that day, which is why I used the term umlaut. Cheers 🙂

  23. Allard de Kam

    Being a champagne lover, with Ozzie friends, from Dutch decent and able to speak some French I can not help myself to reply. I was at Moët in Epernay on the 28th of october this year. We had a tour and saw the pictures of the founders of the estate. One had a shield with a banner that said: het moet zoo zyn. This is old fashioned dutch and translates roughly into: it has to be this way/it is how it is. There are undeniably Dutch roots, the guide admitted but also explained that the background and meaning of the word moet and the relation to Moët is still unclear. Moet is a normal Dutch word and even a name, the ë however isn’t and is probably more French than Dutch. Loved your article and hopefully this contributes to the enjoyment of champagne instead of the confusion. As for the ‘t’: in Dutch it’s hard 😉

    • TBR

      Hi Allard, thanks for your comment. We obviously had different guides on our visits, and I don’t speak any Dutch, but pleased that we can agree that it is a hard T. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the article. Cheers 🙂

  24. jane

    Aussie pronunciation of French is abysmal most of the time. In SA ‘vin’ (wine) rhymes with bin instead of van.

  25. Christine

    The two dots over the ‘e’ in Moët are not an umlaut. It is a tréma. An umlaut looks the same but in Germanic languages it actually changes the sound of the vowel.
    In French, an ‘e’ with two dots over it will always follow another vowel and the two dots indicate that the two vowels are to be pronounced separately. Two examples that come to mind are Noël and Citroën (yes, Aussies pronounce that incorrectly, too. It should be “cit-ro-en”, not “cit-rown”.)
    You can also find some French words that have the tréma over the ‘i’, such as naïf (naive) and maïs (corn).

    • TBR

      Hi Christine, thanks for you comment, yes a couple of people have mentioned the trema in French language. Thanks for the reminder and the explanation. Yes you do see it but not as common as the other accents. I told the story as it was explained to me by the guide on that day which is why I used the term umlaut. Cheers 🙂

  26. Rhiannon

    I always knew it as Moe if you’re showy, Moet if you know it!!

  27. Wohh exactly what I was searching for, regards for posting.

  28. Merci pour cet article

  29. We getting nice information through this blog.
    It’s Greate and Very Helpful.
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  30. Chris

    The French equivalent of the umlaut is the ‘tréma’…it is used in names such as ‘Citroën’ and means the two vowels are pronounced separately.
    Cheers!

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