Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Language of Wine Snobbery 101

Last week, columnist Joel Stein of the LA Times wrote an article regarding wine descriptions, The Language of Wine Snobbery. At first, I hesitated to blog this as if Joel Stein needs more attention brought to his article. The article itself was a bit transparent and like many youngsters' motives with such outbursts as this one: bad attention is better than no attention at all.

Now what provokes me to express my opinion is that the LA Times didn’t publish my comment regarding Stein’s article. Apparently Stein feels: “When wine drinkers tell me they taste notes of cherries, tobacco and rose petals, usually all I can detect is a whole lot of jackass.” To which my response to Joel Stein’s article: all I could detect was a whole lot of jackass.

Now, let me also say that I would agree with Stein in a few instances. Nothing chaps my jackass when I read wine descriptions that say such crap as “obsequious little fruit pixie coursing through pillowy tannins...dreams of unicorns flying over rainbows...” makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. However, when I read terms such as cherries, tobacco, green peppers and even banana cream pie, these are all legitimate terms. An example: with a chardonnay, you might detect flavors of banana cream pie. Of course, the phenols that have been extracted from the grape skins and stems during crush are also found in bananas. Buttery and caramel aromas and flavors (and sometimes creamy texture) result from the malolactic fermentation and notes of vanilla and toasty pie crust comes from the treatment of the oak barrels. Flavor of green pepper is often found in wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc due to the chemical, pyrazine and this chemical is prevalent in fresh bell peppers; asparagus, peas and of course, these grape varieties.

I really began to see red, and not just any red - - in fact, I saw a deep blackish, inky Walla Walla Valley Syrah-red with notes of blueberries, bacon, and tar... when he started dissing on UC Davis professor Ann Noble who created the Wine Aroma Wheel. Bad ju-ju and karma come your way Joel Stein - may your gen-x video game turn into a deck of “Go Fish” cards and you dream of boomer Birkenstocks instead of Sex and the City satin Manolo Blahniks. Rule #1 in wine descriptions: Don’t be messin' with Dr. Noble. She taught me everything I know about sensory evaluation.

Last, but not least of the insults about wine language, Stein says: “So from now on, wine drinkers, you get to mention three things you smell in a wine, max.” My response to this sentence is perhaps what nailed my comment from being accepted to the LA Times list of comments:

"Speaking as a wine drinker and wine writer, if Stein thinks I should be limited to only three things I smell in a wine, then it would be wise that I remain limited to three things I smell about this article - -
Joel, you suck."

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