A Wine Writer’s Existential and Epistemological Challenges
“It’s like a puff of dust in the back of your throat.”
That’s how a salesman at a trade tasting once described a wine he was pitching. No, I didn’t buy it. Nor do I remember the wine. I only remember wondering why he would choose to elicit gagging when describing one of life’s greatest pleasures.
While his was a pathetic example, it does illustrate the sometimes maniacal metaphoric mangling that language is subjected to when wine writers tackle wine descriptions. There is a wide-ranging glossary of accepted terms used in the trade which winos eventually learn to use as their tasting experience expands. But in the end, do they really mean that much at all?
In this brief essay in The New English Review, Colin Brewer, armed with a Malbec 2004 from South Africa’s Paarl, examines what it all might mean:
Wine is always described as being like something else. This is appealingly post modern. If a chardonnay tastes a bit like a peach, what then does the peach taste like? A chardonnay? And if so, what does either taste like? If you must describe the Van Loveren 2001 limited edition Merlot as being “chocolately”, does it mean that chocolate tastes like the Van Loveren Merlot? And if we like the Merlot on account if its tasting like chocolate, why don’t we eat chocolate instead of drinking wine?