People say a lot of inane things about wine on the Internets, most of which I just try to ignore. This one is just so silly I can’t resist.
The author begins by complaining about “over-the-top” wine descriptions that have something to do with sex.
There’s a fine line between many wine reviews and practically anything Anastasia Steele mumbles to herself in “50 Shades of Grey.”Words like “sexy,” “musky,” “racy” and “heady” get bandied about like a tennis ball in a baseline rally between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in both you-cannot-be-serious, over-the-top genres.
Well. Ok. Since wine gives pleasure and sex gives pleasure it’s not clear why one semantic domain should not be metaphorically extended to the other. But whatever. Maybe he’s a prude and is just uncomfortable with sex talk.
Then he moves on to some of the “earthy” language used to describe wine.
Seriously. Can you imagine going out to eat with someone and hearing them describe their steak as having a “barnyard” smell to it – or a “cat pee” taste? You’d think the chef left rancid meat out on the counter for the past week. And yet those words are commonly used to describe certain wines by wine writers around the world.
Actually, I can imagine eating with such a person if the steak smelled like barnyard or cat pee. It usually doesn’t thankfully, but wine often does. Some wines smell like that because they contain compounds that give off those scents. “Barnyard” is caused by brettanomyces; cat pee is caused by p-mentha-8-thiol-3-one. If the wine gives off those odors why not say so? Should we lie to the reader?
And then we get the big 5—the five terms we should never use to describe wine because they are overused—licorice, flabby, luscious/seductive, smoky, and full-bodied.
I’m talking about those words and phrases that make you just roll your eyes and think, “Who does this guy think he is? Ricardo Montalban trying to sell us a 1975 Chysler Cordoba with ‘Corinthian leather’?”
“Licorice” is in fact not very common. But if the wine smells like licorice why not use the term? Would “anise” be better? Flabby wines lack acidity and don’t refresh. Should we say “limp” or “sagging” instead? How about “enervated”? “Flabby” seems perfectly accurate and it’s a conventional way of describing low acid wines. Last I knew language is a system of conventions—using them kinda helps people know what you’re talking about.
Some wines are smoky because they are aged in oak barrels made of staves that have been—wait for it—toasted. Should we replace “smoky” with “sooty”? Not so good for the shelf-talker I wouldn’t think.
And anyone who doesn’t describe most Napa Cabs or Amarone as full-bodied is just irresponsible. Body refers to the weight and viscosity of the wine. It is not only a conventional term but a technical term that has a reasonably precise meaning. Deviate from this and you confuse everyone.
The point of writing is in part to communicate clearly—these conventional terms are an indispensible part of the wine vocabulary because everyone who talks about wine knows what they mean. (Newcomers may not but there is nothing wrong with demanding that they get up to speed if they want to understand what’s going on)
No doubt there are some over-the-top wine descriptions, but none that this article mentions are even remotely out of place. This is just click-bait for rubes.