As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.
These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).
In my latest column,I explain why the baffling rhetoric of tasting notes intimidates consumers and stands in the way of wine appreciation. And I urge wine enthusiasts to change the way we talk about wine.
“This first wine is a fighter; he’s loud. The second wine is pensive; she has a dark side.” This past Saturday, as I led a seminar in Chevy Chase, Maryland, one of the participants offered these tasting notes while comparing two wines.
We were exploring Pinot Noir from California and France. I offered more typical descriptions to highlight the differences — dark, ripe cherries on the Sonoma example versus earthy, tart cherries on the one from Burgundy — and several students pushed back.
At least half the room admitted that they find tasting notes bewildering. Others acknowledged that they scoff at wine descriptors. Many confessed that such notes intimidate them.
At first, I defended the standard wine review. I collect wine, so I pay close attention to people whose palates are similar to mine, like Eric Asimov of the New York Times. And I read reviews from critics like Stephen Tanzer and Antonio Galloni of Vinous to glean information about a wine’s general flavor profile. With Chardonnay, for example, I’m interested in wines that are high in acid and offer aromas of tart citrus fruits. I’m rarely excited by a heavy Chardonnay with notes of ripe tropical fruits, butter, and oak. Basic descriptors like these help describe a wine and its style.
But I could sympathize with my students. Communicating effectively about wine shouldn’t demand an encyclopedic knowledge of rare fruits and bizarre aromas; after all, wine is just fermented grape juice. Thanks to mass-market wine magazines, however, we’ve come to expect gobbledygook.
Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!