Wine terms continued

I received quite a bit of response to the last article about "professional" wine terms (well, I call three responses "quite a bit") so I thought I'd move along with a few more ideas.

Professional wine jargon is different than wine appreciation jargon in many ways. Those folks who are selling wine for a living are very tuned in to what makes a wine "tick." This means what we tend to see are red flags and green flags in the appearance, bouquet, taste and aftertastes of vino. We understand, if we have been in the business for a short time, what the "general" public will purchase and why. Wines with "trademark" flavors like the ever-ready butter bomb Chardonnays of say, Kendall Jackson, or the cotton candy flavors of Beringer White Zinfandel are easily recognizable and need only to be briefly examined.

Terms such as "butter bomb" and "cotton candy" pretty much say it all and describe uncomplicated wines. This is not to denigrate those folks who like the wine or the winemaker who is running all the way to the bank by "manufacturing" them. Hey, if you like the wine, drink it.

The trick for the professional is to delve deeper into the flavor components and make as much sense of the wine with the fewest amount of words possible. One of the toughest tricks to accomplish is cutting the verbiage (adjectives) to the bone and move on.

As a commercial wine judge, this is of paramount importance. I will judge over 140 wines in two days. Given 60 seconds per wine we are looking at well over two hours of discussion on each wine not including the medal considerations and elimination rounds. If we go over this time, say two minutes per wine we are doubling our time span. This is why I believe commercial wine judges and many wine writers cut to the quick and move on. There are literally tens of thousands of wines out there which get released annually not including those already on the shelf or sitting in cases in the winery as well as those in the barrel or tank. Describing this stuff is, on many levels, daunting.

Some years ago I had a wine salesperson who would bring me four or five wines to me to evaluate. I'd begin to taste the wine and he would begin to describe the wine. At about five minutes per bottle, half an hour of my day was shot. After a while he was wondering why folks were not eager to see him and I had to be very candid. After a few lessons in brevity and to-the-point wine jargon, he began to make sales to restaurant folks and retailers and move on. He became a fine salesperson overall.

Wine is, after all is said and done, 26 ounces of fermented grape juice. I think for some of the wine gurus out there, things simply need to get back into some sort of perspective. The very truth of the matter is it is all about family and good friends and if vino can help this along from occasion to occasion, this is what it is all about. Anyone who tries to tell you that fine wine is more than a catalyst for warm social graces is missing the boat.

See you next week.

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