Wine­s­peak – de­coded

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

the man or woman who has just de­voted a year of their life to mak­ing the stuff, or the ar­dent buyer, were peer­ing anx­iously over your shoul­der.

Con­struc­tive crit­i­cism is one thing but I know about wine tast­ing, not wine mak­ing. Plus, some­times it’s hard to know where to start. That’s part of the rea­son for talk­ing in code.

A cheery “Oh yes, very com­mer­cial” at the end of a win­ery tast­ing usu­ally means “This is a Turkey Twiz­zler of a wine”, a line that might not be greeted with such a big smile.

“Lots of fruit” can be an­other way of de­liv­er­ing bad news in a good way. “And that’s the only good thing about it” be­ing the great un­said here.

Then there’s the stuff we write down. OF is my ren­der­ing of “ru­ined by ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic oak­ing” – yes, I know “ru­ined” grapes that are slightly too ripe, but just doesn’t quite taste as good as it thinks it is.

Th­ese are not the tast­ing notes one learns in Wine School but they say far more. I don’t of­ten let oth­ers see th­ese cur­mud­geonly judg­ments but I was thrilled to look at some­one else’s when the Wine So­ci­ety’s cham­pagne buyer, Mar­cel Or­dord-Wil­liams, pub­lished ver­ba­tim his notes from the an­nual cham­pagne tast­ing in White­hall last year, plus his ver­dicts on the 2011s. “Hor­rid,” he writes. “Sweet. Not my bag.” “No change, avoid.” “Great name, silly bot­tle, dis­grace­ful wine at NV level.” And my favourite: “Sweet, com­mon, don’t touch.” Ap­par­ently this swiftly be­came one of the most viewed posts on the Wine So­ci­ety blog.

When wines aren’t up to much, there is rarely any point in de­tailed anal­y­sis. It’s the ones that are ex­cit­ing that have the pen rac­ing across the page, of­ten with far-fetched notes. I was strug­gling to de­scribe a slightly feral but de­li­cious back­ground note in one red wine when a friend (male, ob­vi­ously) snapped: “Look, it’s like the armpits of a very beau­ti­ful girl af­ter three sets of ten­nis.” Not one I’d have thought of my­self – and not one I’ll for­get in a hurry.

Truly great wines of­ten re­duce me to the same terse­ness as the bad ones. You don’t want to pick and parse, just to write: “Out­stand­ing.” And if pos­si­ble, sit down and drink them.

vic­to­[email protected]­

Keep it brief: if you have to taste up to 150 wines in a sin­gle day, there is no way you can go into ram­bling, evoca­tive de­scrip­tions of each

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