International Wine & Food Society Journal, December 2013
Most recent article relevant to this one here . All my IWFS articles are here.
IWFS members arrive here from the link in the December 2013 Food & Wine Journal.
You phone IWFS friends asking about the weekend at the Jay household who reply “We’ve just had a delivery and will be binning all the wine.”. Your next comment is “We’re putting wine words into mental bins in order to make sense of them.”. John Jay continues with “Why not come over and we’ll work on the combined project? So far we’ve opened an interesting pudding wine. Jill thinks it’s quite well-balanced and sugar content isn’t in excess for its type. We concluded the first tasting with the view that its mouth-feel is normal (also for its type) and it voices a strong French accent.”
We can leave the results of the tasting to another article as there’s work to be done on putting wine words into little boxes. It’s just one way of keeping them in the pigeon-holes of the mind. With a good proportion of readers who enjoy a wine cellar, they might appreciate an extension of their binning system. The photo shows plenty in each bin which is also a wine word problem!
Michael Broadbent’s lecture following the AGM in November is still fresh in our minds. In his “Pocket Guide to Winetasting” (1979, p 105) he uses the following “bins” and a few examples are given. Those in italics (not italicised in the book) may not be in as much use as the others.
“Words in common use - acid/acidity, bouquet, clean, fruity, grapey, tannic, tough, watery.
..which should be used in a qualified context - aftertaste, big, coarse, neutral, sour, weak.
Words to use precisely or with care - astringent, baked, dumb, feminine, forthcoming.
If the titles in bold text can seen as individual bin headings, we can visualise Michael’s mental wine bins. In a subsequent description of red wines in his larger book on winetasting (2003, p 97) we can imagine rows of bins in the red corner as follows and bin examples are given.
“Appearance - depth, colour/hue. Nose or bouquet—condition, development. Palate - body, tannin, acid, development, length/finish.” Bins often need to link to other bins. Sixty words describing body include alcohol content, extract, vintage and geographical origin. Alcohol uses 100 words.
Another ‘main bin’ tannin is defined. - “astringent, noticeably drying, soft tannins, mellow”. Our tannin bin may include a note against “astringent” saying “see bin number 179” The 1979 book defines it thus: “a dry, mouth-puckering effect caused by a high tannin content often accompanied by a high degree of acidity. Might well soften and mellow as the wine matures. Not bitter.” Perhaps we take “mellow” for granted. Our author tells us “soft, mature. No rough edges. A desirable characteristic normally associated with maturity and age; also essentially associated with alcohol, glycerol and fructose.” We have insufficient space to explore glycerol and fructose.
Another author previously met by readers (in June) is Prof. Adrienne Lehrer. It’s interesting that Michael Broadbent has been impressed by her (his 1979 book p 97, his 2003 book, p 90). Prof Lehrer, during the 1970s, identified 240 wine terms in the
wine literature. Let’s see 10% of them. “attenuated here, baked,
blurred, charming, has come on, cooked, dead, dumb, finesse, flabby, flattering, fleshy, has majesty, mettlesome, ostentatious, pebbly, penetrating, redolent, roguish, skunky, has stamina, transcendental, twiggy, vegy, zestful.”
A desirable characteristic normally associated with maturity and age; also essentially associated with alcohol, glycerol and fructose.” We have insufficient space to explore glycerol and fructose.
Most items on the list are adjectives. Additionally, “berry”, “has bite”, “has grip” (no adjectival forms.) However, at the rate English changes these days, don’t be surprised one day to come across ‘berryish’, biteus’ (rhyming with “righteous”) and ‘grippish’ or “grippy’. “Grap(e)y” is listed and that was new but who knows when?
More seriously, how does one go about mentally filing and then understanding some of the more unusual wine words before launching them in the direction of unsuspecting fellow-diners or sommeliers? The latter may be as unknowing as the diners. We saw “has come on” earlier. Would you ask a sommelier for a wine with that description? What is the characteristic? Among the IWFS monographs here is “The Science of Taste” by Ruth Binney. On p 41, she deals with “First impressions”. “The first aroma of a wine is the one that reaches the nose as it approaches the glass, described as montant - that is, coming to meet you, as with a Mosel or dry white Bordeaux.” Looking at the verb from another direction, you ask your fellow diners about the montant moment and they raise ther glasses expectantly. Even more challenging is to explain that you are trying to
categorise wine words and ask them to help you find a bin to store montant. New wine words take time to enter the every-day vocabulary. Google wine montant and it thinks you mean Montana here .
Mouthfeel you may remember (June issue, p 25) may be an update for André Simon’s palate memory. It is certainly more than wine word of the month and there’s plenty of Internet coverage here. Although Michael Broadbent doesn’t include it in his books mentioned, mouthfeel is dealt with on eleven pages in Prof. Lehrer’s book Wine & Conversation (2003). Under the heading New Words for Body, (p 34) we read that “One word that has become common is structure, a word that was rare in the 1970s. Structure involves body, acid, tannin, and to some extent, it overlaps with texture, which has become a common word for feel or mouthfeel. Structure is more inclusive.” A separate quotation is that structure is “the plan or architecture of the flavour.”. We are planning the architectural layout of our wine word bins.
Readers who enjoy a binning system buy (or perhaps are given) a new wine. Perhaps it doesn’t reach the bins. Perhaps it is placed where the ‘drink soon’ or ‘drink later but not too late” wine goes. Perhaps it is for laying down. Wine words are no different. Some are explored asap. We want reaction to the way we use them. If none, we bin them in another other sense of the word. Others are layed down until mentally digested (mixed metaphors?). There’s rather a lot of wine words here so let’s look at ways of consuming them. Like new wines at a commercial tasting , we have looked at the colour of the words, assessed their fragrance and tasted them. We won’t buy them all. One aspect of that is there are alternative suppliers. Many wine words receive different definitions and it’s your choice which expert you adopt on a regular basis.
The way we learn and remember information varies from person to person as does the way we use it. Here are suggestions. There are words from my previous articles and some are new.
acid acidity alcohol bouquet Bual fragrance nose
Clearly, some nouns have adjectival forms and vice versa which can reduce the number. Many words need other wine words to describe them which vastly increase the number of bins.
Basing your bins on grammatical word groups may not be the best way. Perhaps include word trees . For example, Adrienne Lehrer (p 62) shows taste as the trunk and sweet, sour, salty, and bitter as the branches (or bin rows) (also see structure above on this page). Perhaps start main rows of bins with content (e.g. alcohol), move on to result (e.g. % proof, etc), and progress to the ethereal words. We will explore more ways next time. Meanwhile, ponder Bual.
Last time, we were warned about “the unfathomable depths of wine”. (I was treading water then and am now exploring using a snorkel.) We also looked at wine doing the talking. The introduction of dumb here suggests that some wines may have good qualities but are unable to express them. At the table and tastings, Michael Broadbent prefers vocal participation. “ .. not to comment intelligently on wine in a wine-oriented context is a failure to rise to the occasion.”. Plenty to talk about at your next branch meeting!
Read an extended version with wine wheels, more definitions and deep-sea diving via enjoydrink.co.uk Montant goes as far back as 1835 in the Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française hereherewiki1694 .