Good Question: Why Is Bad Wine Called "Plonk"?

Good Question: Why Is Bad Wine Called "Plonk"?

Faith Durand
Mar 27, 2008

Here's a fun question and a reminder that we are going to relaunch our wine coverage soon. Crisp summer whites are coming - we can hardly wait. Meanwhile, here's the story behind a word too-often used, sadly, with respect to our current cellar.

Dear Kitchn, why is cheap or bad wine called "plonk"?
I must know. It's driving me crazy.


"Plonk," it turns out, has its roots in a meeting of cultures - Australian and French. It dates back to World War I, when Australian and American soldiers were in France and drinking undistinguished white wine - "vin blanc" - in the muddy trenches. The vowels in the French vin blanc evolved into the easier and coarser "plonk," which came to represent all the rough and ready wine available to the troops.

The Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine mentions other evolutionary stages of the term, including "von Blink‚" sounding like the name of a German officer, to "plinketty plonk‚" like the twanging of a banjo. "Plonk" was coincidentally a British slang for mud, and the word spread through British troops as well.

By WWII this term also referred to the lowest airmen of the Royal Air Force - "A/C Plonk‚" for aircraftman 2nd class. Or, if you will, plonk in the glass.

Some say that the word comes from the sound of the cork being drawn or the "plonking" down of a glass on a bar, but these are only cursorily related. The roots, we're afraid, of the word plonk, are in war, privation, and making light of the only mud you've got.

(Image: Cheap Fun Wines)

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