FOOD DRINK NUTRITION DIET DRINKS: ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: WINE : FOOD CRITICS : TERMINOLOGY : WORDS : VOCABULARY : INFORMATION LITERACY: Is There a Better Way to Talk About Wine?


David P. Dillard
 

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FOOD DRINK NUTRITION DIET DRINKS: ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: WINE :

FOOD CRITICS :

TERMINOLOGY :

WORDS :

VOCABULARY :

INFORMATION LITERACY:

Is There a Better Way to Talk About Wine?

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Is There a Better Way to Talk About Wine?

July 29, 2015

By Bianca Bosker

The New Yorker

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/ is-there-a-better-way-to-talk-about-wine

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A shorter URL for the above link:

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http://tinyurl.com/qcqguqp

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But, as extravagant tasting notes have become de rigeur in the marketing world, theyve also arguably lost their practical function as consumer guides. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Wine Economics gave amateur drinkers two different glasses of Bordeaux along with a professional critics tasting notes, and asked them to match each review with the correct glass. An unctuous 2000 Clos du Marquis supposedly evoked cre de cassis, vanilla, and cherry; the 2000 Cheau Talbot had flavors of licorice, herb, earth, and leather. The subjects performed no better at identifying each wine than if theyd guessed at random. Read any wine review or bottle label today and you will likely empathize with their confusion. Swallowing a substance that tastes of strawberry bubble gum with tar sounds like punishment, yet somehow Suckling extols this Montalcino as delicious; a drink with flavors of graphite mixed with pe de fruit, hoisin sauce, warm ganache, and well-roasted applewood calls to mind a dinner party gone wrong, not a Wine Spectator Pick of the Year. And how can one know whether a bottle that the bimonthly newsletter Wine Advocate dubbed liquefied Viagra pairs better with salmon or pork?

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Frustrated with the state of modern winespeak, some academics, sommeliers, and critics are attempting to rein in tasting notes and develop new idioms that convey quality more concretely. A group of researchers known as the American Association of Wine Economists has waged a nearly decade-long crusade against overwrought and unreliable flavor descriptions. In 2007, the associations Journal of Wine Economics ran an analysis of wine critics which concluded that the industry was, in no uncertain terms, intrinsically bullshit-prone.

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The figure most responsible for the emergence of the modern sommelier lexicon was not a swish-and-spit celebrity like Parker but a professor of viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis named Ann Noble. In 1984, Noble, drawing upon the work of other sensory scientists at Davis, published the Wine Aroma Wheel, a circular chart of six dozen descriptors that could be used to describe wine by smell. Like Ballester, Noble, who is now a professor emeritus at Davis, told me that she was motivated, in part, by a desire to eradicate fuzzy concepts. She organized her chart into broad categories such as spicy (cloves, black pepper, and licorice) or fruity (strawberry, lemon, and melon), and in an accompanying user guide argued against terms that were hedonic or the result of an integrated or judgmental response, and in favor of specific and analytical ones. (Minerality didnt make the cut.) For the first time, winemakers, critics, and consumers had a common lexicon to draw upon. One researcher at the Burgundy School of Business told me that the Aroma Wheel is considered the Ten Commandments of the wine world. (Calvin Trillin wrote about Noble, and the challenges of telling a red wine from a white, in 2002.)

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But even with a standardized vocabulary, the flavor of winelike any form of tasteis dependent in large part upon the biases and predilections of the person doing the tasting.

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So how best to confront the obfuscating nature of modern winespeak? One option is to think of flavor in terms of chemistry rather than gastronomy. In April, the Guild of Sommeliers, a nonprofit association of fine-wine specialists, created a cheat sheet encouraging wine professionals to name the chemical compounds that are responsible for the odors in a glass.

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Yet there is something a bit dreary about Kramers call for such unvarnished expressions of judgmentsomething as inaccessible, in its way, as references to thiols or pyrazines. If such approaches can help to bring much-needed precision to wine reviews, they also seem less likely to stimulate a drinkers curiosity or imagination in the way that a fruit salad of flavor descriptions might.

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Those of us who enjoy wine apparently appreciate a little mystery along with our fermented grape juice. As Geoff Kruth, the master sommelier, told me, At the end of the day, were selling poetry.

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The complete article may be read at the URL above.

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