Wine Talk

Snooth User: Lindy Hemsley

Using Words to Evoke Flavour

Posted by Lindy Hemsley, Jan 6, 2010.

Simon Hoggart reviewed Roger Scruton's book I Drink Therefore I am: A Philospher's Guide in The Spectator (not WS). He had this to say:

"How do you use words to evoke a flavour, an aroma, an evanescent scent? Do you simply say 'this is delicious, you should try it'? Or do you try to find the words? Sometimes the effect can be banal and even hilarious. My favourite puff . . . said of a Gewurtztraminer, 'with top notes of cinnamon and vanilla,and an undertone of Nivea cream.' The writer should, as the Irish say, catch himself on."

What do we think? If Nivea cream we find, should we be so unromantic as to say so?

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Replies

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Reply by Lindy Hemsley, Jan 6, 2010.

'Nivea cream', of course, encompassing all banalities - and assuming we haven't moisturised before wine tasting:) I started to see this going seriously off-course.

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Reply by winescribbler, Jan 6, 2010.

i actually quite enjoy such flights of imagination. Wine tasting notes can be incredibly dull after a while unless the writer can inject something individual and entertaining. I try and temperany over the top flights of fancy in my notes but at the same time try and take them up above the norm and the banal!

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Reply by Jeffery, Jan 6, 2010.

given that most wine drinkers are new to the art I stay away from terms such as pencil lead, asphalt, eucalyptus, etc. I generally stick to 'very fruity, peppery spicy, earthy and elegant' where appropriate.

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Reply by poll1pl, Jan 6, 2010.

I agree with Jeffery.

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Reply by chadrich, Jan 6, 2010.

Going back to the old cliche that first impressions are usually right, I think there's no need (and perhaps harm) in supressing whatever adjective comes to mind.

For example, whenever I stick my nose in a glass of Pinotage, I immediately think "BandAid" (this of the old-school somewhat orange and rubbery variety those of us of a certain not-to-be-disclosed age used to always use when we were kids). I was eventually educated that this aroma is Hawthorne. But...if I try to describe the wine to a group of folks, I suspect mentioning "BandAid" is likely to be more evocative of the aroma and therefore more meaningful to many in the group than if I said "Hawthorne".

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Reply by Lindy Hemsley, Jan 6, 2010.

Chadrich, I'm glad to learn that the BandAid aroma can be explained other than as a borderline wine fault, as I've had suggested to me. I love wines with this quality if you have any suggestions.

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Reply by kylewolf, Jan 6, 2010.

i have often had terms such as kerosene, lighter fluid, stale bread, baby powder, and of all things, chloroform...but that is what happens when I drink with biologists.

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Reply by amour, Jan 6, 2010.

HOW TIMELY LINDY, MY DEAR FRIEND !
I, only a few hours before you...said on another thread....THAT I review with my poetic stamp....
and described a wine as being a light dancer or some such remark !!!

YOUR MERE MENTION OF THE SPECTATOR MADE ME SO VERY NOSTALGIC FOR LONDON AND I HAVE EVEN ORGANIZED TO HAVE IT SENT REGULARLY TO ME !

THANKS FOR RAISING THESE POINTS!
I WILL RECONVENE ON THIS MATTER !!!

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Reply by fibo86, Jan 7, 2010.

One of the reasons people use those terms is because the wine can have that same chemical basis as the terms described one of the funniest examples came from Jancis Robinson (MW wine writer) describing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc she said that the pungency from the wine was so strong she referred to NZ SB as cat pee on a gooseberry bush.
In true NZ style a wine maker has called his wines Cat pee on the gooseberry bush SB, Tom cat Merlot,Boss cat Chard aka Fat cat and Glamour puss Pinot.
http://www.indigowinegroup.com/img/...
I'll try to find the ultra geeky chemical comparisons for you.

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Reply by poll1pl, Jan 7, 2010.

I can understand "cat pee" becuase it's someitng natural .. but any assimilation to the chemical it's for my someting not natural.
However I can understand "kylewolf" and his specific situation lol

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Reply by amour, Jan 7, 2010.

Thanks for reminding us of MW Jancis Robinson...an institution unto herself !

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Reply by ItalienskaVinbutiken, Jan 7, 2010.

I remember my grandfather sometimes referring to a newly gallopped horse on a cold but sunny winter day when he drank his old french bordeaux-wines.
Whenever I speak professionally, I try to use fruits, spices and, herbs, flowers etc. but personally I believe that in the end it´s more fun for the imagination if you use other objects/sensations/images to describe a flavour. Flavours can really wake up memories inside of us, and sometimes you only want to pass on a feeling.
In Italy, people are very traditional about this though. You can´t talk about cats or horses or you´ll risk offending people. Either that or you get hugh laughs;))

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Reply by kylewolf, Jan 7, 2010.

as far as these terms go, I know I use "sunny crisp fall day" and "dried leaves" when attempting to invoke the feelings I get when drinking Chianti. It isnt a flavor, but more of a presence, the wine feels, brittle, and perhaps thin...for lack of a better word (not derogatory toward the wine at all)

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 7, 2010.

As you point out so well, Italienska, it is very much about the audience to which you speak. But so much of communication is, isn't it?

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Reply by fibo86, Jan 7, 2010.

Ah but petrol has a smell and also kerosene has a smell so why can't those smells be in there? and they are naturally exuded from those products even though they aren't a natural product themselves I know I can smell (but as a child we had a kerosene heater and for me it's stuck in the memory bank) that kerosene smell in aged Riesling and you are going to absolutely LOVE this one.......can't really drink majority of stickies cause I can smell the mold! (very sensitive to mold smell in saying that of a class of 20 there was myself and one other person that could smell something that we didn't really appreciate in that wine {although he called it a cleaning product called windex window cleaner} so it is often what's in the memory bank)

So is it sensitivity, training with whom you speak or is it the fact that when you have to go into wine training you are given a collective amount of world known terms to use and does it boil down to those universal terms or what you have being smelling?

My best example is, as we do have a lot of Eucalyptus (and can pick it a mile away) but have been told not really to use that term as a lot of people won't understand instead we are to use menthol or mint....for me though if that's what i smell that's it.

Another favorite is autolysis is often described as bready yeasty character yet over here we call it that vegimite (cooked black yeast spread product) smell, not many people around the world would get that, that's why we have to use a universal term instead.

@Italienska I use a horse blanket when referring to some French wines although not in my posting notes anymore cause not everyone has had the "pleasure" (tee hee) of smelling a horse blanket dry or wet.



Ps still trying to find that article.

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Reply by ItalienskaVinbutiken, Jan 7, 2010.

Sure is, dmcker!

If I say that the Vermentino di Sardegna on the table reminds you of the Mediterranean island flora Italians, greeks and spanish will understand immediately. But if I try the same with the finnish, they will invariable star thinking about pine-trees and blueberries, even though they realise in some way or another that this is not what I was trying to communicate. But the image you give people sticks to them.

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Reply by Lindy Hemsley, Jan 8, 2010.

Thanks Fibo86, some interesting thoughts. Eucalyptus to me is unique and menthol/mint are not exact synonyms. I love Kylewolf's 'sunny crisp fall day' and relate to that completely, but it wouldn't mean anything to a Singaporean. Dmcker is right, it's all about audience, but where does that leave us when reviewing on the World Wide Web? Back to those universal terms learnt in wine training I guess.

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Reply by fibo86, Jan 8, 2010.

It's unfortunate but true, If you look at this particular review I have tried to use the feeling of the summer http://www.snooth.com/wine/domaine-... as well as the universal terms.

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Reply by fibo86, Jan 8, 2010.

Unfortunate but true, although I tried to use both universal and evoking terms in this review I did more like the time to drink it, rather than for the wine http://www.snooth.com/wine/domaine-...

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Reply by fibo86, Jan 8, 2010.

whoops

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