Annoying Article About Wine Writing

 

Sooth.com's latest reverse snobbery is bashing the top five annoying wine words, to wit:
1) Unctuous
2) Confident
3) Serious
4) Cacophony
5) The finish lasted X seconds

Don't know their quarrel with "unctuous," as there are certainly oily wines -- it's basically the point of Vognier. Can't say I've ever heard a wine described as confident, but a well-integrated wine, like a good painting or musical composition, can be said to have a good sense of itself.

It is not unreasonable to speak of aroma notes, which are entirely analogous to sounds, as disharmonious or cacaphonious -- this is an artifact of pour structure and lack of aromatic integration of which I have spoken frequently. The length of a finish seems a reasonable thing to estimate.

I use the term "serious" exclusively for distinguishing between serious rosés and silly rosés. In France, rosé consumption has surpassed white wine. In America it is only a summer quaff which many sugar-phobes are fearful even to try.

Although one could as easily speak of dry vs sweet, a good, well-balanced dry rosé should have a natural sweetness to it, and the term also implies that the wine's emphasis is not entirely on simple fruit and has versatile food pairing capabilities. I think the word "serious" in this context encourages the novice consumer to expand their rosé horizons and open up the discussion to a world of dry rosés which can be taken, well, seriously.

 

musings: 

Comments

 

 

Clark
Who cares? Don't get sucked up in tautological wine blogging tunnelvision. No one is seriously concerned with this crap except for the circle of wine bloggers who write it and read it and respond ad nauseum. Your points about rose are thoughtful and serious. The original blog isn't. By the way,you know that great viogniers aren't exactly unctuous. They come from France, Virginia, and Cold Heaven. Most of the California stuff is downright gagging. Or flammable and gagging. What a combination. Great pairing for bulimics at a sizzling fajitas feast. Maybe suitable with buffalo wings consumed on offshore oil rigs. mark

Mark:
Duly noted. The great Viogniers of the Snake River and from Renaissance and Pilot Peak are other examples which are quite steely, and I was afraid somebody would bring this up. I do believe "unctous" is a reasonable descriptor, however, which applies to many Vioginers and has great appeal and recognizability in this varietal.

In truth the whole notion of speaking of varietals rather than regions doesn't work very well, but I am trying to use the vernacular and fight one battle at a time.

Clark

 

 

 

I haven't seen the piece in question in sooth.com, but do have thoughts to share on wine descriptions: there are far, far worse things being written than words like cacophony and serious. Frankly, I don't see anything wrong with such language, as anthropological terms have been part and parcel of wine literature and journalism, like, forever (even classicists like Hugh Johnson and Michael Broadbent have been known to skip the light fandango when it comes to describing a few favorite wines).

What's far worse is when critics and reviewers are simply wrong. For example, some of the most widely read, and quoted, critics are maddenly known for their impervious insensitivity to major flaws like Brettanomyces, volatile acidity, and even oxidation; slapping on 90+ scores on to wines rife with these attributes along with descriptions that do not even hint at those nasty things. The Brits, I hate to say it, are even worse than Americans when it comes to brett -- many of them not only refuse to acknowledge it, they even glorify producers whose wines stink to high heaven with manure-like aromas.

Otherwise, I say that creative use of the English language is just fine for wines. If a wine has a multiplicity of strong aromas, cacophony is a great way to express that. If a wine seems smooth or suave, and impeccably crafted, there's nothing wrong with the word confident. It is what it is, and kudos to the writers with enough confidence and imagination to make wines sound interesting enough to perk interest and enthusiasm.

 

 

 

Randy
I think the difference in point of view is a function of experience and training. Those trained in qualitative or descriptive sensory analysis of wine as a technical winemaking tool have little use for ambiguous, subjective, or emotional terms in the description of wines. We can all understand "apple', "tart" or "excessive alcoholic heat". "Cacophany" and "serious" are among the many words used to describe wine that may be variously interpreted. I would find an obviously oaked wine cacophanous, you might not. I might think a lean, mineral-laden Chablis to be "serious", whereas you might think the term only applies to tannic red wine. Unfortunately, because of the popularity of poorly edited wine writing, and the plethora of untrained wine reviewers, the public has no concept of systematic, technical sensory analysis of wine. You would enjoy a college-level wine sensory analysis course immensely, and your comments indicate one would be a worthwhile advancement of your capacity for wine appreciation. sincerely, mark

Mark:
As I pointed out in "Does UC Davis Have a Theory of Deliciousness?"(http://www.winecrimes.com/winecrimes/UC_deliciousness.pdf) in 1995, wine's appeal is not easily grasped through a reductionist approach, an Aroma Wheel grocery list of identifyable parts. Like taking a Ferrari to pieces, learning to do so is useful for the professional who is managiing these pieces (winemaker as mechanic) but less so for the consumer, who is interested in how the pieces fit together in a whole. A novelist can describe a person as "serious" or a noise as "cacaphonous" without reproach, and we do not doubt the reasonableness of these observations. There is no "appreciation" in identifying the intensity of disconnected notes; it's the whole wine that is to be appreciated and described.
Clark

 

 

 

Clark
Fine. But wine writers and consumers can't resist dabbling in reductionism. I'm just saying- take it seriously and rationally. Either it's objective and capable of conveying useful info or it's not- in which case, why bother? I agree with you. Wine is not amenable to objectivism, or enumeration. But there's a huge industry based on just that. All I was saying to your reader was: there are sound reasons beside Clark's personal pet peeves for his rejecting certain terminology. If you disagree with your original premise, ok. But decide which fence you are sitting on, OK?