Hmm, Perhaps Just a Hint of Humbug; A French Scientist Is Getting Right Up the Nose of Wine Experts, Claiming They Can't Tell Red from White. Evening Standard Wine Writer Andrew Jefford Defends the Language of Scent and Flavour

By Jefford, Andrew | The Evening Standard (London, England), November 2, 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Hmm, Perhaps Just a Hint of Humbug; A French Scientist Is Getting Right Up the Nose of Wine Experts, Claiming They Can't Tell Red from White. Evening Standard Wine Writer Andrew Jefford Defends the Language of Scent and Flavour


Jefford, Andrew, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: ANDREW JEFFORD

WE'VE been rumbled. The language of wine is a load of old blackcurrants (no, make that "fat melons" with "hedgerow fruit and herbs"), and those who spout it are mystificatory hierophants (or, in common parlance, pseuds). That, at any rate, is the conclusion being drawn from a recent piece of French research whose findings have been published in the current edition of New Scientist.

A French researcher called Gil Morot discovered, by the agreeably simple stratagem of tinting white wines red, that his sample group of wine tasters immediately began to smell red fruits and substances instead of the white and yellow repertoire they had previously detected - when the white wine was still white. To be fair, Monsieur Morot didn't have the tough trio of Oz Clarke, Jancis Robinson and the all-powerful American taster Robert Parker sitting in front of him, but a group of eager-toplease French undergraduates.

NONETHELESS, he concludes that "olfactory descriptions are completely subjective". You might as well chose your fruit 'n' nut wine descriptions, in other words, by pulling the handle on a slot machine and seeing what chugs up to the line. All us wine writers should be sent packing.

This, it has to be admitted, is a view which commands considerable public sympathy.

Wine writing is commonly seen as ludicrously extravagant, even meaningless, and its use is one of the alienating factors in making the uninitiated feel excluded by "wine snobs" from their world.

What do we make of a red wine said to be "dry with a hint of rustic sod"?

Just how do you feel about "superbly glossy tannins and strikingly berried fruit in first-class, textured collusion"? Can you immediately imagine a wine which "has a warm, earthy aroma (touch of basil), stunningly well-concentrated and murky tannins, and an evolved finish of hedgerow fruits and herbs, and that ineffable quality the Spaniards call duende"?

These are descriptions from The Guardian's Superplonk column of 17 March, 15 September and 16 June this year.

There is an irony in all this, which is that fanciful formulations of this sort were actually meant to be a stratagem to open up the world of winetasting and make it more accessible to the uninitiated.

Thirty years ago, wine descriptions would have read something like this.

"There is now a suggestion of evolution on the colour. Lovely nose. Really sophisticated complex fruit.

Fine acidity but rich enough so not hard or austere Good tannins but they don't stick out. Very very subtle and complex at the end." Some wine writers, in fact, still write like this: it's a quotation from Clive Coates's 1997 CUte d'Or. When Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke introduced wine tasting to television, they quickly worked out that if they began with "a suggestion of evolution", it would take about seven seconds for people in Barnsley and Chelmsford to decide they'd rather watch the ice hockey playoffs from Calgary.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Hmm, Perhaps Just a Hint of Humbug; A French Scientist Is Getting Right Up the Nose of Wine Experts, Claiming They Can't Tell Red from White. Evening Standard Wine Writer Andrew Jefford Defends the Language of Scent and Flavour
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?