Wine Talk

Snooth User: shawkes

wine descriptors

Original post by shawkes, May 25, 2010.

In 1976, Amerine and Roessler ( U.C. Davis professors) counseled tasters to avoid emotive and anthropomorphic terms such big, finesse, hard, intense, lingering, long, rich, silky and velvety.  They stated in their book "Wines, Their Sensory Evaluation" that these words should be avoided at all costs.  How does the forum feel of this?

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Reply by VegasOenophile, May 31, 2010.

It's funny how a post about overly verbose and literary type wine descriptors has resulted in some very lengthy posts on the subject itself hehehe

Reply by dmcker, May 31, 2010.

I don't think the original problem was 'about overly verbose and literary type wine descriptors'. It was, rather, about the best kinds of language and descriptions to employ in communicating a subtle, ephemeral experience to other human beings--how to be both technically precise yet also get the emotional aspect of the wine's impact on a person's nose and palate across effectively. Why are we trying to talk to each other about it if we can't effectively communicate? Obviously not just an issue with wine... ;-)

Reply by zufrieden, Jun 1, 2010.

It seems to me that all of you are correct to some greater or lesser degree about wine reviewing in general.  But if, for example, you find that your scores diverge from other tasters - especially those with a similar range of experience with wine - perhaps you need to discuss these differences at length either in person or through more in-depth written exchanges.  

Now that only holds if you actually care about understanding the divergence. I for one do care about such divergence in the same way I care about the nature of the club I join.  In my experience, there is a certain amount of difference in opinion that is explicable and tolerated through variation in taste whether that be in the arts, spiritual belief, politics, gastronomy, wine or general mode of living.  But these differences are not those of class such as those that separate the uninitiated or uninformed (in a fairly wide and tolerant sense, of course) from their opposites.

Since quality is not entirely absolute, within the universe of better-made wines there exist many examples of carefully made products not to our particular tastes. Certainly this is true of food and tends to be true of music and other similar phenomena of aesthetic attention.

In exactly the same way, those annoyingly verbose reviews and opaque references can be assessed within the universe of reviewing in general. If the review is good, I may not share the reviewer's assessment but can understand the kernel of her point of view.  That means it works for me and if it works for most other people, something of general use may have been communicated.  But that does not mean I want to join her club; that depends on our agreement regarding what constitutes quality.  Friendship takes yet another step - agreement on taste.


Reply by dmcker, Jun 1, 2010.

Ah, Zuf, you seem to have narrow requirements for friendship. Many friends do I have whose taste is nowhere near the same as mine, whether it be regarding wine, cooking, travel, art, sports, politics, religion, literature and cinema or a night's entertainment. But, of course, we do have some areas in common, even if not that particular one.... ;-)

Reply by zufrieden, Jun 2, 2010.

Yeah, I thought later about the narrow range and figured my rather sharp divides would seem overly exclusive.  I think what I was trying to get at (and doing this with language in a more-or-less timed exercise is difficult) was how people come together for mutual enjoyment (certainly a form of friendship in the wider sense - sharing love of intellectual chatter, art, the so-called finer things in life) and a deeper meshing of core values and taste.

If you truly enjoy people, you'll always be quite tolerant and even compassionate.  In any case, many apparent disagreements with friends and other companions often run shallow and prove to be of little importance in your relationship; indeed, you may even enjoy the friendly controversy.  You may not always agree with your closest friends but when the fundamentals are at stake there is usually an intersection of core values; these are the "heavies" - justice, freedom, loyalty and the like.  

But moving to a lighter example, I rarely serve a (sound) wine that is not enjoyed by friends and relatives, although these individuals have their own preferences.  In most cases, this also applies to other forms of appreciation - sensual or otherwise.

It is probably wrong altogether to think that there is some "essence" that can bind people at the deepest level; human beings are usually pretty dynamic.  But if there is some kind of essence or core to a person that lasts throughout life, that core - for me - must include an appreciation of finer things in life.

And that most certainly includes wine. Wine and food integrate well with all other aspects of the good life.

Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 3, 2010.

ahhh... the english language.... what a marvel... i will never master.... at least the selling part, anyway....

i think the year in with that passage was written needs to really be takin into consideration...

'76 was the famed year that california was put up against france.... wine consumption by everyday people in the u.s. was at a tiny fraction of what it is today... uc davis was an agricultural school, and to take that aproach, it would make sense for amerine and roessler to look at wine in such an impersonal and emotionless way, they had probably never even tried it! haha

as for the adjectives for tasting, i'm glad there aren't any rules... but it's important to realize that the majority of wine drinkers are casual drinkers (my bartender side coming out) and they only know certain buzz words, if any at all..... take the word DRY for instance.... probably the most misused word when describing wine... i know when someone comes in asking for a dry wine, 9 times out of 10 they aren't refering to residual sugar or sweetness... they want something acidic....

when i'm having a tasting, with a fun group, friends or not, do you know what the first palate descriptor i give....



always remember to have fun.... after all, it IS wine!

Reply by Mr Lee, Jul 11, 2010.

Wow ! What an interesting discussion this one is. Here in this community in N.M. I am considered by many to be a wine con..... jez I just can't bring myself to use that term. I'm not that pretentious! I have on the other hand, over 30 years experience with wine and it is how I make my living. I have enjoyed wine in 27 countries of the world. So I think I qualify to some extent to say that sometimes wine discriptions can get a little heavy handed much the same way a polititions command of the vanacular(?) can get to say so much about nothing that the answer to the question gets lost to the point that a translator needs to be called in so the rest of us can understand. Wine is a living thing in my opinon and as such is something to be more enjoyed than scrutinized with complexity. I must agree with StevenBabb. GRAPES!!!!! I'M DETECTING A HINT OF GRAPES!!!! VINO VERITAS! LOL! Cheers!

Reply by Andrew46, Jul 11, 2010.

Not that I consider myself an expert on this topic, but I have read this book and been in tasting classes at Davis, including classes with Ann Noble, developer of the wine aroma wheel.  As a side note, my step father and our winemaker is a two time Indvidual Grand Champ of the CA Wine Tasting Championships.

The book in question is, and the wine scientists at UCD are, from my POV, are working to view tasting as a scientific, statistically valid way of relating info about wine.  I liked reading the book.  I understand error in wine tasting better because of it.  The words that make scientific descriptions possible are words that have a direct sensory basis.  Such as ripe ripe cherry aroma, or moderately tart acidity, or even smooth tannin.

There are several different contexts in which a wine description could be used.  Each context and set of intentions brings out a different set of words.

If the writer is intending to give the reader info that describes a wine in a meaningful way so that the reader could know what the wine will taste like, the more vague a word is the less helpful the word is towards that goal.

From my POV, the words listed are not the worst offenders.  Words like rustic, assertive, seductive, muscular seem to me to impart little to no info which can transfer from writer to the reader.

These words might be helpful in selling wines.  To me, they are not helpful in giving the reader a meaningful description.

A descriptions which uses only sensory terms may not give the drinker of wine the same romantic feelings as the wine is being consumed.  So, when wine is being described, are we talking about a romantic description, or scientific description? 

Niether is more or less than the other, they are just diferent animals.

Reply by Mr Lee, Jul 11, 2010.

Well said Andrew46, and I didn't even need a translater! Cheers!

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