Drinking or philosophizing
Wine culture was a mystery that I managed to unravel one day. Working for a French wine lover showed another world where wine is not a drink, it’s a “nectar” that deserves an appropriate attitude. My revelation impelled me to research the history of wine culture, which resulted in the dissertation entitled “Enological Component of Language World View of Modern France from Pragmalinguistic Perspective”. Well, sounds clever and serious, but it was just the beginning. This knowledge helped to develop the skills, enabling me to expose the essence of wine and enjoy it to the fullest. However, many questions are still to be raised.
What is the question?
For now, let us pretend that we are enjoying a glass of good wine in a company of experienced wine lovers. The same wine can be characterized by different people as “powerful, full-bodied and rich” or “wine full of black fruit aromas with lovely woodiness and pleasantly ripe tannins”. The same wine? Yes! The same impression? Probably. The same description? Not exactly.
Drinking or philosophizing?
Sommeliers are very good at specialized vocabulary, which they use proficiently while analyzing visual aspects, nose, palate, aftertaste, and provide comments on general impression of wine. Wine tasting is drinking for a novice and talking for an experienced wine lover. Many of us would characterize a glass of good red wine as nice and lovely, which provide our general impression. However, we really lack for words to reveal the whole flavor (or bouquet). Or, do we lack words even to feel wine qualities? For sure, wine must be enjoyed as well as appreciated. On the contrary, we need knowledge and special wine language to savor the wine. The wine contains hundreds of compounds to which we are responsive. But, are we able to feel all of them or the wine keeps on being just nice and tasty?
Components or impression?
Knowing wine descriptors is essential to actually enjoying the wine. Wine qualities depend on the types of grapes, vintage, vinification, maturity, region – or terroir (another mystical concept in wine culture). To describe wine flavors, visual aspect, palate, viscosity special terms are used, which could be divided into two groups: descriptive terms and evaluative terms. For example, let us see the description of Mersault Genevrière 1er Cru (Sommeliers International №127):
Visual aspect: superb, bright and concentrated; a strong golden colour with greenish, golden tinges.
Nose: charming and stylish, on aromas of Golden apple and fresh butter intensified by a hint of well proportioned woodiness.
Palate: round and rich, developing on splendid mellowness which brings lovely fullness. A long, well balanced finish.
Match with food: pan-fried sea bass or prawns cooked in curry stock.
Comment: a tremendous typical, concentrated, delicious Meursault to be enjoyed now for pleasure; it is absolutely delicate and elegant. Also tasted: a magnificent Meursault 2006.
Such descriptors as aromas of Golden apple, fresh butter, woodiness are rather objective as they can be chemically justifiable or explained by peculiarities of maturation and/or vinification process, type of grape etc. The Wine Aroma Wheel can help us to find general descriptions in the center of the wheel and look for more precise vocabulary when we make our way to the outside perimeter
However, evaluative terms, such as superb, charming, stylish, round, and rich are subjective. Moreover, some of them are metaphors. Elegant and stylish wine may really confuse the layperson at first sight. Metaphors are great wine descriptors as it is sufficient to bring to mind the image these descriptors are associated with (a woman, for example) and all flavors of elegant and stylish wine become clear and comprehensible.