Winespeak – Revisited

Winespeak, the language created by wine lovers to describe their wine drinking experience, has no grammar nor rules or boundaries.  For the most part it uses metaphors.  While making and drinking wine goes back to biblical times, winespeak is a language that was created just recently by the baby boomer generation in the post 60’s when drinking wine started becoming a part of our culture.

In the Winespeak language “bright” means acidic, which for the most part it is meant to be positive, while flabby,” lacks acidity, which is negative.  A “fatty” wine is concentrated, a “fleshy” wine is full bodied and a wine with a “grip” is tannic.  An “angular” wine hits you in your mouth in specific places with high impact while being void in other places.  An “austere” wine has very little to offer while an “opulent” wine is rich, bold, smooth and satisfying.  Some wine critics use “earthy” to describe an awkward green unpleasant finish.  I use “earthy” as a positive attribute signifying that the wine has aromas similar to a forest after a rain with a savory, mushroomy and dry finish.

Winespeak makes wine drinking a sensual experience.    Words such as decadent, lush and fleshy are often used as descriptors.  Can you imagine drinking a voluptuous or a flamboyant wine?  But come to think of it, why do we drink wine if not for pleasure.    Instead of the 100 point scale system that is commonly used for rating wines, wouldn’t it make more sense to rate a wine by its “pleasure index” from one to ten, where a score of ten would be “ecstasy” and a zero would denote “excruciating pain?”

It follows that drinking wine should be a hedonistic experience.  But when some critics describe a wine as “sophisticated” or “intellectually appealing”, they leave you feeling that there is much more to the wine than you are able to perceive; not just smells of fruit, spice, herbs, minerals, cocoa and the like.  Robert Parker says that “if you are not satisfied by a wine on a hedonistic or intellectual level, you should not drink it.”  I can understand the first part but the second part fails me.  To me our olfactory senses, as subjective as they may be, are real.  But giving a wine an intellectual description can be no more than an exciting mental exercise

The influence of some critics on popularizing styles of wine should not be underestimated.  Robert Parker with his introduction of the 100 point rating system in and his assigning high scores to wines that were higher in alcohol, jammy with higher fruity extract, stronger oak influence and a sweeter finish influenced the industry to adopt his Parkerized wine style.   That’s how the term “Parkerization” entered into the language of Winespeak.

In conclusion, I would like to suggest that Winespeak  be used to enlighten, not indoctrinate or obstruct the uncovering of your own taste.  As Socrates once said, “The expression of taste is an expression of freedom; the moment you abdicate responsibility for your taste, you voluntarily abdicate your freedom.”