MAY be the preferred fashionista tipple, but the pronunciation of Moët & Chandon has caused many red faces and hot debate.
I will never forget my first visit to the exclusive Moët & Chandon lounge at Australian Fashion Week.
Upon receiving my first free glass of bubbles I enthusiastically declared the ‘Mo-aye was fabulous,’ only to be
shot down by an acid-tongued fashion editor who said, ‘It’s Mo-wett darling.’
Sufficiently mortified, but not enough as to not enjoy my drink, I set forth to find out just how to pronounce it.
Throwing the question out for debate at social gatherings, dinner parties and unsuspecting wine waiters it became a hotly contested topic but I was none the wiser.
Those in favour of ‘Mo-aye’ argued it was French champagne and therefore the ‘t’ was soft, while those in favour of ‘Mo-wett’ had other theories including that the name originated in Germany and therefore the ‘t’ was pronounced.
None of these theories is correct. Here are the facts.
The correct way to pronounce it is ‘Mo’wett’.
Moët is indeed French champagne and was founded
in 1743 by Claude Moët.
This is where it gets confusing. Moët was
born in France in 1683; however, his name is not French, it is Dutch,
which is why it is pronounced thus, says Helen Vause, public relations
spokesperson for Moët & Chandon in New Zealand.
‘He was descended from a family of winemakers
established in the Champagne region since the fourteenth century,’
says Ms Vause.
The word Chandon was added in 1832 after Pierre-Gabriel
Chandon’s daughter married into the Moët family.
It is generally accepted that French words drop
the ‘t’ but when the word is followed by a word starting with a
vowel the ‘t’ is usually pronounced, which is another theory people
tout as the reason for it being ‘Mo’wett’.
However, in this case the general rule does not
apply says Myreille Pawliez, senior lecturer in French at Victoria
‘Proper nouns in French, which include names of
people and places, don’t follow the general rule and because there
are so many exceptions it can get confusing,’ she says.
‘In this case it is two proper names put together (Moët et Chandon) and you just have to know how to pronounce
And don’t let the word ‘et’ (which means ‘and’)
‘With the word et you never voice
the t,’ says Ms Pawliez.
As for the German connection, there isn’t one, although the champagne did make it to Germany in 1755.
‘In this part of the world [New Zealand] the wrong pronunciation has taken a very firm grip,’ says Ms Vause.
‘When I say it the right way people often look
slightly embarrassed and think, “She doesn’t know how to pronounce
it, poor dear.”’
However, she says the French representatives,
when visiting New Zealand, are accepting of our mispronunciation,
realizing where it has stemmed from. ‘They are not snotty about
What is undisputed is that Moët & Chandon
is still one of the most fashionable drinks in the world.
It is a partner on fashion week podiums worldwide,
including L’Oréal New Zealand Fashion Week, and was responsible
for launching the craze of sipping it through a straw so models could enjoy their favourite champagne without spoiling their lipstick.
Women’s love story with Moët & Chandon began in 1745 when Louis XV’s favourite, the Marquise de Pompadour, proclaimed that ‘champagne is the only wine that leaves women beautiful after drinking’.
Some of the greatest women in history have contributed
to the renown of Moët & Chandon. Both Napoleon’s mother
and his wife Josephine were its powerful proponents under the First
Empire. Sarah Bernhardt allegedly drank a half bottle of it with
every meal and, in the 1920s, Josephine Baker walked her panther
on the terrace of La Rotonde and visited the Moët & Chandon
Visit Moët &
Those in favour of ‘Mo-aye’ argued it was French
champagne and therefore the ‘t’ was soft, while those in favour
of ‘Mo-wett’ had other theories including that the name originated
None of these theories are correct.
Carolyn Enting is an editor at Mindfood
and a guest contributor to Lucire.