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The Juice Growing season updates, exciting new domaines, or whatever gets us bubbling and fermenting...this is the Becky Wasserman Selection platform for news straight from the source.

Monday, July 30, 2007

State of the Nation

I was conducting a tasting somewhere in Texas and indulged in what I had promised myself never to do : an olfactory descriptor. I stated that the wine we were tasting reminded me of wood violets. A lovely, stout fellow raised his hand and said, Maam, I am not a small man, and I am an urban man. If you think that I am going to get down on my knees in a forest to smell a flower, you are sadly mistaken. Please do not use such language’. Abashed, I vowed never to do so again. Since then, descriptors have flourished, multiplied, bred, and proliferated. They often come in set (one for bouquet, a second for palate, the third for aftertaste). I am particularly offended by shrimp shells when applied to red Burgundies. Although the underlying limestone rock in certain areas contains minute fossils of sea creatures, it is truly doubtful that such ancient memorabilia filters through and lends a nostalgic note to a contemporary bouquet.


Pat Simon, Wine-Tasters Logic says that the wine-taster should accept another’s use of jargon or cliches with courtesy and understanding and I make every effort to follow his advice. However, when one of my favourite Volnays supposedly smells of ham hocks and chalk, I must speak up or beseech Calliope* and Thalia* to punish the descriptorator by limiting his/her adjectives to a maximum of eighteen for at least a year.


Tasting infant wines in cask when their bouquets are all over the place, when no clear message is ready to be delivered, when AS SOON AS THE WINES ARE BOTTLED THEY WILL CHANGE AND CONTINUE TO CHANGE UNTIL THEY SETTLE FIRMLY INTO THE FIRST PART OF THEIR VINOUS LIVES, seems to inspire free associations that defy the imagination. Also, one man’s meat is another man’s sandalwood-infused clam chowder** as we do not have a common sensory vocabulary.

A bit of restraint, please, or thousands of earnest and fine folks will strain and struggle to find that hint of spinach in their glass, and will quietly go home feeling that the love of wine should be somehow less daunting.

* Calliope is the Muse of epic poetry, Thalia the Muse of comedy. **The famous proverb – one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

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