Over the years (and through my wine learnin’) I’ve built up a pretty badass vocabulary to talk about wine. Some words are just so appropriate I’m glad I can now call on them when I need to, and some are just so freaking wacky that I get a kick out of using them to remind myself that wine shouldn’t be all snootiness and pretension.
Some of my favourites include:
- Damson plum – a very specific (and very satisfying) descriptor one of my former classmates liked to use
- Garden hose – a weird descriptor that is sometimes the only appropriate word to describe a Reisling
- Pizza dough – that fresh, raw, kind of wet doughy smell you get sometimes from traditional method sparkling wine
- Fresh earth/forest floor – things I would probably never actually want to taste, but things I nevertheless love in a good Pinot Noir
Weird, right? There are so many commonly-used words and phrases to choose from. It’s pretty fantastic! As a word nerd I love finding just the right combination to describe a wine so that it makes perfect sense (I’m better at it some days than others. Sometimes all I can come up with is: is tastes like… wine?).
There is, however, one word that is not welcome in my personal wine lexicon. It is vague and nondescript and, really, completely useless.
What word is that?
There is no objectivity in wine
First of all, let’s just admit that wine (or anything to do with the senses) is completely subjective. Not only is good relative, but our senses of smell and taste are too. Who knows what we’re really tasting when we agree that we both get raspberry or plum or leather on a wine – those sensations could be totally different for me than for you.
It doesn’t mean you’ll like it
On top of that, me saying a wine is good has no bearing on whether you’ll like it or not. My stepdad loves Gewurztraminer, and I can barely have half a glass before I’m all ‘you know what, I’m full up on this oily flowery-ness, can I have something else now’? But my stepdad loves the dang grape so much he once hosted a wine tasting of only Gewurztraminers. There were SEVEN of them! My palate died a little that day (but of course I still did it – wine learning has no regard for personal taste!). It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ the wines are, they’re not my fave. AND THAT’S OK.
Breaking through the good barrier
I’ve spent lots of time (and money!) learning how to judge wine along the WSET metric. I’m happy that I feel like I can now be fairly confident in saying whether a wine is WSET good or not, but that’s a different thing from you and I both agreeing that the same wine is good.
I’m a bit of a broken record about it at this point, but it’s much better to just pay attention to your own tastes and to experiment with different grapes and regions. Who knows? You might find out you love some obscure wine that people keep overlooking. Like fino sherry! (mmmmmm, fino sherry…)