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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pity the wine writer

I have always enjoyed writing, and over the last 20 years have had a rollercoaster ride in freelance journalism, till I reached my current derailment as wine tour operator, on the gravy train of mixed metaphors.

Therefore, reductio ad absurdum, caveat emptor, I am a wine writer.

I drink, therefore I am one.

Problem is – most wine writers are regarded as total tossers by the general public.

And not without good reason. There is a tendency for them to wax poetical about the aromatic and metaphoric virtues of wines in way which alienates the average drinker –i.e. somebody with a neck and a thirst. And to be totally honest, after three glasses of anything, subjectivity goes out the window because wine contains alcohol.

This very fact is sadly overlooked by nearly all wine writers, who would rather say, “Subtle oak nuances flirt with the nose, while crème brulée and tropical fruit flavours predominate, and a symphony of citrus notes play on the mid-palate before a sunset of honeyed vanilla”, than “This is a Chardonnay which will get you totally rat-arsed after two bottles.”

But then, most of your mates could say that, if they were intelligible – and it would neither be terribly interesting, amusing nor informative. So as a writer you are rather stuck with having to say something descriptive about the wine. And there is a standard vocabulary based on the Aroma Wheel developed at the University of California at Davis by professor emeritus Ann C. Noble.

The good professor has obviously spent many an hour drinking good wine and analysing the aromas and flavours thereof. This is extremely helpful when you try to describe in print how you interpret a particular wine and distinguish it from others. Each grape has its own flavours and characteristics just as a Granny Smith differs from a Braeburn apple, or a raspberry tastes different to a boysenberry.

Writers do have to try to convey something in print which evokes the very subjective experience of a glass of wine (or two). I always think it's akin to writing about music - trying to nail the ethereal in a pithy phrase.

So do spare a thought for the hapless wine writer – caught somewhere between oenology and onanology.

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