Ambiguity

Just as in life, very few things in the wine world are black and white. It’s easy to generalize and pass judgment on wines, wineries, wine styles, regions, countries and so on.  With such ambiguity and so many exceptions, it’s hard to be wrong. That’s what makes the wine world so much fun. I love the metaphors, the analogies, and the comparisons. Everyone sees something different. When I drink a glass from a bottle of $300 Napa Cab, I don’t have fun creative things to compare it to. I say “Damn!” But some people drink the same wine and say “Do you get the mint? The currants? I taste my grandmother’s spaghetti, the time that she made it before church, and she scorched the pan a little bit.”

I taste in adjectives. I taste dark. I taste rich. I taste soft. I even taste red. What’s great is that it doesn’t necessarily matter. I can fill your head with all of the nonsense I want, but it doesn’t change the way the wine taste to you, so why bother? It won’t be long until I have to be able to taste a wine and tell the world what it is without looking at the label. I thought it would be impossible without the ability to pick up “currants” and “mint” and “vanilla”, and “black cherries covered in a soft vanilla, slightly scorched confectioners sugar caramel.” As it turns out, if you know you like Syrah, then you can detect  a Syrah.  After you’ve tasted Italian Syrah, French Syrah, Australian Shiraz, California Shiraz/ Syrah, 500 times, you notice patterns. The tough part for me is putting those patterns into words, but I know what they are. The best way I would know to describe the difference between a California Chardonnay, and an Australian Chardonnay would be with some crazy metaphor that anyone could relate to. It would have nothing to do with wine or food. It becomes a feeling.

If you think about it, the wine world is nothing but comparison. It’s comparison to things that you have tasted and things you have experienced; no one can argue that with you. “You don’t’ taste your grandmothers spaghetti!” That would just be silly.

 

View my restaurants’ wine lists:

Nosh: http://nosh121.com/grapesgrains/default.asp
The Blue Star: http://www.thebluestar.net/WineSpirits.asp

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  1. #1 by Barry on March 5, 2011 - 4:03 PM

    The best wines I have had are the ones that can’t be put in words. It is like describing a picture with words. Describe Van Gogh’s sunflowers in words. Words don’t come close. You could say “they are yellow in a big vase with a blue background”. This is meaningless because the words cannot convey the same effect as the picture. Much like saying “this wine tastes like cherries and chocolate”. Ripe cherries, or bad out of season cherries? Is it a level of cherry that rocks you or is it just flat boring one note flavor?
    A good picture will transport you as will good wine.

    • #2 by nosh121 on March 6, 2011 - 12:17 PM

      So true. For that reason, when i’m writing wine descriptions in the menu, I try to keep it factual. I say things that I know are true, and know that people will understand. “Huge body, enormously rich, loads of dark fruit up front, soft lingering tannins” If I picked up blackberries, and I say blackberries, someone will order it to pair with their cobbler thinking it’s going to seal the deal, but they picked up currants! And they don’t like currant cobbler! Now we both look silly!

  2. #3 by Kelly at Chatelaine on March 7, 2011 - 3:16 PM

    What’s a nice red that would pair well with a beef tenderloin filet with chimichurri sauce?

    • #4 by nosh121 on March 7, 2011 - 4:54 PM

      When I think about the Filet itself, I would be looking for a red wine with a pretty significant amount of body. In the realm of red meat and red wine, it’s hard to go wrong. With a lean cut such as a filet, I may stray away from reds with too high of acidity. Grenache, and cooler climate Pinot Noir wouldn’t be my first choice. However, with the Chimichurri, I think about the spice of the herbs, and how they will cut through the richness of the steak. I would look for a wine that would mimic that. I would think about a French, Southern Rhone blend. A Syrah heavy Rhone blend, or a Rhone blend that is almost equal parts Grenache/ Syrah, I think would be your winning combo. Let me know what you go with, and how it worked :-)
      Joe Conrad

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