Spent this evening working on a piece for Harpers on lanuage and wine. It's got me thinking, in particular about two questions. What is the most appropriate way to describe our perception of wine? And does our language for wine shape our perceptions?
Think about these questions as you read the following tasting notes:
Dark fruits and oak spices can be discerned in the aromatics of the 1998 Clos de Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui. Medium- to full-bodied, dense, and concentrated it is a fat, fruit-dominated wine. Blackberries, cherries, and loads of spices cover up this wines structured character… Smoked bacon, juniper berries, candle wax, and cherries can be found in the nose of the medium to dark ruby-coloured 1999 Clos de Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui. This full-bodied, chewy-textured, highly-extracted wine is crammed with toast, blackberry syrup, Asian spices, and bacon. It is intense, plush and delineated and has outstanding depth.
Pierre Rovani, talking about the wines of Anne Gros in Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide, sixth edition
More reserved on the nose than most of the Ambroise wines, but also with exciting glimpses of what is hidden under the cloak. A slightly roasted, nutty scent, but not in the least dried out or too warm. On the palate there is even a coolness to the fruit, the elegance and freshness of which is even better preserved than in the Clos Vougeot. But there is at once more breadth, depth, richness and sustain. Harmonious all the way through the long finish. The sheer scale is slightly daunting, but the phenolic phalanx is marching in step, with its spears pointing in the right way, protecting rather than threatening the fruit. Regal wine, at the beginning of a long reign. Neil Beckett’s note on Bertrand Amboise Corton-Le Rognet Grand Cru 2003 in issue 5 of The World of Fine Wine
A total whore of a wine (I mean that in a good sense) is the 2002 Grenache Old Vine. Made from 69-year-old vines planted in sandy soils, aged in a combination of new and old French and American wood, and cropped at 1.5 tons of fruit per acre, the vintage’s cool drought conditions have resulted in a magnificent wine that represents the nectar of Grenache. Dense ruby/purple-colored with spectacular concentration in addition to sweet blackberry, kirsch, raspberry, pepper, and flower characteristics, this magnificently concentrated, full-bodied 2002 takes Barossa Grenache to new heights.
Robert Parker commenting on a wine from new Barossa superstar Troy Kalleske
Clear fresh cherry red. Nose tight but sweet and ripe. Lean and nutty, then more almond-like, growing in potency and finishing long.
Hugh Johnson on Domaine Amiot-Servelle’s 2000 Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, in The World of Fine Wine issue 3
A dark glowing colour followed by a thick, warm burr of blackberry fruits, like the embrace of a tropical night. The palate is dominated by plunging exotic blackberry richness, thick and almost pippy, its exuberance and sheer presence a testament to the solar wealth of 2003. This ample fruit is held impressively in balance as the palate unfolds, and nothing obtrudes or disconcerts; it all tapers away to a lively, breath-freshening finish. Magnificent, enduring wine.
Andrew Jefford describes Ligier-Belair’s 2003 La Romanée in The World of Fine Wine issue 5
I'll leave you to form your own opinions, merely noting that these notes reflect a range of different strategies in capturing sensory perception in words. To fuel me in my labour, I've been accompanied by Ricasoli's Brolio Chianti Classico 2003. It is a robust, structured, savoury sort of red wine with plenty of fruit, but the dominant feature is the muscular tannic structure. It's a bit like a middle aged guy who has worked out heavily in the gym and gone running four times a week - the muscles are well defined, but they are all sinewy and the veins are showing. This wine lacks the easy going, plumpish muscularity of youth - instead we have a rather tough, drying sort of structure, which allied to the high-ish acid makes this the sort of wine that's authentic and enjoyable, but only really with food. I'm quite enjoying it, albeit in a mouth puckering sort of way. Reasonably serious. (Sainsbury £10.99)