>The catastrophic postmodernist nightmare that is the discussion of the wine list

>When was the last time communication was so bad between you and another person that it made your face actually come off, walk outside, and have a cigarette without you?

For me, it happens almost nightly.
Come on, how bad can it be?

Try this exchange, which really for super-cereal real happened, about a week ago (for the purposes of added insight, the female guest shall be known as Shiraz-Seeker):

Shiraz-Seeker: (perusing list with a distinct look of utter confusion because it has no Shiraz on it) I want a red wine but I don’t like a real dry wine.

Me: When you say “dry“, do you mean you don’t want something that feels very tannic?

Shiraz-Seeker: No, I don’t mind tannins….

Me: You just want there to be a lot of body and fruit with it.

Shiraz-Seeker: Well I don’t want anything sweet.

Me: It wouldn’t be sweet. We’re just talking fruit – and it’s kind of lush. It’s a Priorat we have that’s got a nice full mouth of red fruit and some pepper…

Shiraz-Seeker: Pepper? So is it real dry?

Me: (face detaching itself and walking outside while flipping the bird) Who knows.

I highlighted the words: dry, sweet, tannins, lush, body, fruit, because these are words most often bandied about in wine reviews and discussion. They, and several other extrinsically worthless words like “mid-palate” and “finish” make up what the mass populace thinks of as the Impenetrable Lexicon of Wine. These words will do nothing to help you understand wine if you don’t already have some inkling of it – if you haven’t thought about the way it feels and smells and tastes. The words only give some semblance of structure to this otherwise catastrophic postmodernist nightmare that is the discussion of the wine list.

In other words: don’t use borrowed words to to shop for anything. It’s like when you try to parrot your knowledgeable brother-in-law when you are at your mechanic’s so they will think you know what you are talking about and should, therefore, NOT be swindled out of a lot of money. I’ve been horribly guilty of this very thing. (“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” — somebody smarter than I)

Dry” to one person means a lot of tannins, which give your mouth the feeling of being pulled on or filled with tiny strands of wood. Think black tea.
Dry” to someone else might mean a high alcohol content.
Dry” to yet another person might mean, in white wine, a high natural acidity, which actually makes your mouth water, so is it dry or just wet-waiting-to-happen?

So next time you are at one of my tables, lost in the wilderness of names and varietals and vintages and regions, don’t use these words. Just tell me some wines you usually like to drink that we don’t have – or better yet, what you plan to eat – and then let me go from there. You describing what you want will yield no better results than if I just hurled glasses of different selections at you and let you choose by licking them off your shirt.

The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted.
— Kierkegaard

Oh, and here:


About emc

Out beyond any ideas of right-doing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you in it.
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One Response to >The catastrophic postmodernist nightmare that is the discussion of the wine list

  1. Hogan says:

    >Okay, I can see people misusing these words as well, but that's why I suggest that people learn how to describe the wines they like. Forget sounding like an expert, just tell me what you like. ExampleL "I know I'm having fish, but I like a big red with a lot of fruit on it. Is there anything you'd suggest?" Oh, wait… I just did the thing I wanted my customers to do – not what they actually did. I wanted them (like you, I think) to ask about the wine list. Truth told, only the good customers ever did that, and they were the ones testing me – always with the testing.Nevertheless, I'm always interesting in how to educate the customer. So again, I ask you, where should we start them?

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