Just been browsing the tasting notes on a well known wine website (I will spare the name; I don’t want to be mean to this fine publication, because the problem is not unique to them), and was jolted by the realization that tasting notes generally do a spectactularly bad job of communicating about the nature of wine.
Now I hold my hand up here. I try to make my notes meaningful to readers, but I’m sure you could trawl wineanorak and come up with some classics. But here are some notes that I think are in another league in terms of their impenetrability.
Height, leesy nose – finely crafted. Mineral edges, with a succulent core with a drmip of honey. Fullsome and inviting, with good roundness and fine length.
Crunchy dried flower petal nose and cranberry. High-toned, crisp and crunchy if a bit pricey.
Fresh with plenty of croquant fruit; vibrant and fresh. Good complexity and elegant, fresh and attractive, clean and vibrant, good intensity. Nice direct acidity on the finish.
The first was a Chablis, the second a Californian Pinot Noir, the third a Barbera. No special selection to come up with these gems; they were the first three I stumbled across. You want some more? Somehow the typos, which I have left in, seem to work.
Restrained style with pity, grapefruit core and white musk hints. Well framed and finely produced
Sleek, poised and streamlined nose; honeycomb, nuts/almond. Crunchy palate, refined and well harnessed fruit and acidity combination.
It is a little, shy wine like a gazelle. Like a leprechaun. Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.
The first an Australian Pinot Gris, the second a Chilean Chardonnay. The third isn’t from the same publication; it’s one of the fanciful descriptions by Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte as they drink their way through the Brideshead cellar in Waugh’s great novel. I sort of get what the tasters are trying to say. But examine some of the descriptors more closely, and they don’t really make sense. The terms sound plausible if you rush through them quickly, but if you pause to reflect, they are just a stream of jargon, of little use in actually telling people what the wines taste like.
Is there a way round this? It’s always going to be difficult to express flavours and aromas in words. But in order to talk sensibly about wines, we have to try to do this in as meaningful a way possible. Strings of jargon just won’t do. There’s a point where a tasting note becomes empty – and even counter productive, when it alienates the reader.