Wine writers face a daunting task. How do you convey a coherent description of something as complex and subjective as a sip of wine? And how do you do so in an original way so you entertain readers?
We try. And sometimes we make fools of ourselves. Examples:
• The wine was “like safe sex in the produce aisle at Safeway.” Your partner and Safeway said OK to this because it was “wine tasting research?” Really? Where is that grocery store?
• “Subtle yet annoying, and flamboyantly indiscreet. Not too sweet, not too rancid.” Simultaneously subtle and flamboyantly indiscreet? A little rancid is a good thing?
• The wine was “finer than a dental-floss bikini.” Umm, I know many, many people for whom such attire would not be a fine thing to see no matter how much wine I had consumed.
• “There’s the faintest soupçon of asparagus and just a flutter of Edam cheese.” From movie “Sideways” and at least intended to be pretentious blather.
• “A touch of mulch and celery.” You’ve eaten mulch?
• “Like a newly pimped ride—flashy, flossin’ and fo shizzle,” describing a shiraz. “Fo shizzle” means “for sure” in hip-hop argot; you figure out what the other stuff means.
• “Notes of campfire and patchouli.” Campfire probably means smoke; OK. Patchouli is an Asian plant whose minty oil is used to make insect repellent. Yum.
• Even Robert Parker succumbs, describing “spicy earth” as “I could go into my backyard and sprinkle some cumin, cardamom, turmeric and fenugreek; but how would I know that those are the right choices, rather than coriander, chili powder, caraway seeds and cayenne?”
In case you’ve slept since your last fenugreek fandango, it is “a plant of the legume family, indigenous to western Asia, but extensively cultivated elsewhere, chiefly for forage and its mucilaginous seeds, which are used in medicine.” You know cardamom is a type of ginger. Surely, you think of these often when drinking wine.
• Beringer Founder’s Estate Chardonnay 2010. Straightforward apple, pear, tropical fruit; some oak/toast, round mouth; easy drinking value. $9
• Feudi Di Gregorio Rubrato Campania Aglianico 2007. Cherry, spice, black currant, pine, oak; bright acidity–reserved tannin; very solid Italian red. $20
Last round: “It is a naïve wine without any breeding, but I think you will be amused by its presumption.”–classic James Thurber quote.