Our SaucyJoe's wine expert David Borzo sent us the first of three articles that will post here first and then mosey on to SaucyJoes Wine Picks section.
I love a good wine tasting. I love the exploration of new wines and old, noting the quality of the wine as it rises or falls over the course of an evening. I love the wide variances and balance between fruit and tannins. I love the imaginative pairing of wine and foods, and just sitting around sharing thoughts and impressions on the noble grape with fellow wine lovers. I subscribe to the idea that Wine tasting – as they say about life – should be viewed as a journey. Wine is to be savored, enjoyed, and appreciated as you go. Take the good with the bad, and that’s why I love a good wine tasting. In fact, I think that’s what I want on my tombstone when the time comes: “He may not have been rich and famous, (or very good looking for that matter), but he sure Loved a good Wine Tasting”
OK, but tasting is only half the fun, and not really the real challenge. With the enjoyment of the evening also comes a serious social responsibility. You know what I’m taking about; it’s the “Winespeak”. You need to be able to share your thoughts, and have a discourse on the wine with your fellow travelers.
There needs to be a verbal accompaniment to the ”oooohs” and “aahhhhs” that rise from the tasting table as the evening progresses.
And here is where I usually get in to trouble: It’s the Winespeak that often elicits snickers and comments from my fellow travelers. And it particularly
bugs my wife. She just doesn’t buy it - doesn’t think that all the elements and nuances that we talk about are really there. And if they are, she doesn’t want to talk about it anyway. B-o-r-i-n-g.
OK, I’ll admit it. Sometimes I may use some non-specific or vague terms to describe wine as I taste. Sometimes it makes perfect sense to me, but to no one else. As my tasting and cellaring experience has evolved, I have become more and more comfortable using those dreaded Winespeak terms that we all see in the wine magazines. I started using terms like focused, earthy, herbal, refined and crisp.
Not the most outrageous of terms, but to my wife, these descriptions were starting to sound a little pretentious, or even downright silly. My terminology was often more of a subject of ridicule than sharing or understanding. (“HOW am I funny? Am I here to AMUSE you”?)
I faced some serious grilling from my better half in regards to my Winespeak. She would ask: “How can wine, A LIQUID mind you, be ‘dusty’ ”? I don’t know, that’s just the sense that I get when I tasted it.
“What do you mean ‘Shoe Leather’? What does Shoe leather taste like”? I don’t know, it just hit me that way.
“Black licorice? You always say that!”
( I did go through a “black licorice” phase, I will state for the record).
I think I really hit a low point (or maybe a high point) with her at one tasting with a particularly old Zinfandel that was WAY past its prime. It had a really pungent aroma, “Whoa” – I said. “This bouquet is pretty scary – I first thought ‘barnyard’. No – no - more than that – it’s ‘dirty diapers’”. I got several “eewwws” and a couple of “gross!” comment from the group, but I stuck to my guns. “Dirty diapers” was the only way to describe that wine’s bouquet. It was scary.
Of coursed my wife couldn’t help but chime in with “I don’t recall you changing so many diapers that you would be so familiar with that terminology”. Good one, I had to admit. To Myself only.
Fortunately the wine settled down over the next several minutes and its noxious bouquet diminished a little as it got some invigorating swirling and plenty of oxygen. And thank God the wine tasted better than the first impressions that it gave.
I would have to agree with her that some of the terms that you read in the wine magazines seem preposterous. I either admire the writer’s incredible tasting abilities, or I greatly admire their gift for fiction, I’m not sure. But a quick look at a few pages of one of these magazines makes you wonder. Like one writer who reviewed a Cabernet Sauvignon with “hints of Mocha Toast
”. OK, believable. Not too wild. But in another review from this same writer, and on the same page, another Cabernet suggested to him “Mocha-infused Toast”
. What’s the distinction there? Was it a typo?
And then in going over just two full pages of wine reviews, I found the following Blackberry references to describe several different wines, reviewed by several different writers: Juicy Blackberry
Blast of Blackberry
And Just plain ol' Blackberry.
Sooner or later I fully expecting to see “Mouth puckering Barn-yard Blackberries that stand firm on the finish”
or “Elements of Blackberry Pampers, framed with velvety character and a long finish”
. But even without those additions, that’s quite a lot of different blackberry distinctions. I can’t help but wonder if we are really supposed to be able to distinguish between them all, or if it’s just the writer employing artistic license. I guess I WANT to believe, but sometimes it is hard to buy it all.
So today I continue to be a little self-conscious about Winespeak
, especially out in public, where I don’t have the friendly confines of our little tasting group, and my wife’s biting remarks. Having spent countless hours tasting with friends over the last 20 years, I continue to work hard at trying to describe, distinguish, and categorize the wine I taste. Do I always successfully relay what I’m trying to say about the wine? No. Have I always made sense to all the members of the wine group? Hardly.But I always go with my impressions, good or bad, and hope to make the connection.
And I still say call it dirty diapers if it’s dirty diapers.