October 20, 2021

phwoar look at that wine

Barbecued bananas.
And the same to you mate, with nobs on.
No, barbecued bananas. One of the characteristic aromas of older and decent Rioja Reservas and Gran Reservas, or so we were advised at a WSET Diploma lectures many years ago. It’s always stayed with me that one.
Ditto ‘foxy’ wines. We spent much of those lectures flicking bits of paper at some guy from Threshers but I was very attentive when the term foxy was ascribed to wines made from certain hybrid grape varieties. Somebody asked what foxy meant and the lecturer earnestly recommended: ‘the next time you see a dead fox in the road, stop the car and go and give the dead animal a good sniff, memorise the smell!’. I live in a very rural area and it’s no secret these creatures are an absolute pest. The number of accidents caused by wine students sniffing roadkill and taking notes in the middle of the road! Something should be done.
Anyway the way we describe wine and verbalise our appreciation is a very interesting issue and I always read with interest the descriptions given to wines in the press. A quick survey of last weekend’s papers gave us ‘racy’, ‘ vivacious’, ‘oozing bold, burly, briary, spiced’, ……. I particularly enjoy the perennial ‘aromas of leather and sandalwood’ – hands up who knows what sandalwood smells of and what on earth is it anyway, the wood used to fashion open-toed footwear?
Pity the wine journalist though. Having to come up every week with evocative but non-technical, pulse quickening, asthma inducing descriptions to get the message across (i.e. I got sent 100 bottles of wine to try in my kitchen and this one was nice, so buy it) – it’s really not easy. It’s no surprise that wine enjoys relatively little space on television since it is notoriously difficult to convey the taste and enjoyment of the stuff. Certainly compared to food anyway – we all cook or handle food every day and establishing a connection with the ingredients and throwing pots and pans around is pretty simple.
It’s a problem one faces also if putting together a restaurant wine list which shows some notes on each wine: very often what you really want to say is that this particular Barossa Shiraz is balanced, that is to say the fruit is rich but fits together with the tannins and other components and makes it a pleasure to drink. Balanced, balanced, balanced, boring, boring, boring. Wine (mostly) needs to be balanced but you can’t go round calling everything balanced. ‘Er waiter, excuse me, it says this wine is balanced – what does that mean?’ ‘Well sir when you stand the bottle on the table it doesn’t fall over’.
So what is the alternative?
It struck me that maybe we should all be a little more child-like in our descriptiveness. So I organised a tasting of a dozen top clarets for middle-aged parents with young children and asked them for tasting notes. With fascinating results:
– soft and squishy.
-mmm, this tastes absolutely nice.
-my gp says this isn’t good for me. But it is. It makes me feel good.
-er, crunchy, a bit minty, makes you big and strong.
– smells of cassis and cigar-box, surprisingly good phenolic ripeness for this vintage and would be better consumed after 2015.
I knew there was something suspicious about that last guy.
(No children or animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Except my own)

2 Comments on phwoar look at that wine

  1. I love this piece, WSET days, what a blast. I like the idea of the difficulty to convey the taste and enjoyment of the stuff, it made me imagine a programme with Oz Clarke and Tim Atkins rolling around totally blotto with a big caption underneath saying “Buy this wine, look what it can do”.


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