Wine is just too complicated. People want an enjoyable experience, a wine to complement a nice evening, perhaps a story to tell friends. Instead they are confused by a confusing selection of wine in supermarkets and find not much help from the wine press and wine trade either. On top of that the language of wine is pretentious and mostly meaningless. So I hear it said very often, and while it is perhaps an overly gloomy picture there is some truth in it.
Instead of adding another piece of snobbish wine rambling, today's report from the latest Wine Rambler tasting is a little different. Instead of ourselves it will be the people who speak and tell you what they made of a range of wines selected by yours truly.
As some of you may know, the Wine Rambler London HQ every other season organises a wine tasting - mostly a sociable get together with friends, these events on occasion also include some of the wine writing and trade lot I hang out with. Last Friday it was different though as I hosted the tasting in the office kitchen for some of my colleagues - and our work has nothing to do with wine. Other than that we all enjoy drinking it, although usually not at work.
Interestingly, my colleagues surprised me by suggesting they wanted to describe and assess the wines in their own words: "adjectives pleases", shouted one when we started drinking. So I grabbed my notebook and wrote down what three girls and three boys said about three white and three red wines over the course of a Friday night.
Wine #1: fat, plump, balls, dry, refreshing, scholarly, flinty, sharp, boozy, lead.
Wine #2: more feminine, more masculine, perfumed, iron-y, metallic, gross, like it a lot, professorial, as if it seduces your palate step by step, rohypnol, tart, appears more complex.
Wine #3: naughty, sparkly, fizzy, fireworks, cheeky, less aggressive, fruity, essence of vomit, acidic, like a short story that lost its ending.
Wine #4: fruity, lovely, peppery, little flat, warm, unbridled joy.
Wine #5: toffee, quorn, deep, jammy, blackcurrant, robust, sticky, dark berries.
Wine #6: woody, leathery, masculine, too much.
Now, what to make of that? First of all my colleagues are not bad with words if you consider none has ever had anything to do with wine in a professional capacity. In fact the language is not too different from that used by more creative wine professionals, it just misses technical terms! Secondly, there was not always agreement - neither on which wine was particularly good nor on what characteristics it had. After all, this was about pleasure and not a technical assessment.
Finally, you will have noticed that after a peak at number 2 over the course of the evening the wine became less important - although I think that was also because the last two red wines were maybe the ones closest in style to what you would normally find in London restaurants and pubs, whereas the first few seemed to have been more unusual and hence more exciting for my colleagues.
Which brings me to how I selected the wines. This being a Wine Rambler evening, there had to be German and Austrian wine, obviously, but I also wanted to add a few (somewhat) unusual wines from across the globe - in this case a Californian red wine that is neither expensive nor overoaked and a very serious and "masculine" Italian red. I had a few other wines on my list including a seriously aged white Rioja and an English wine, but as several people dropped out I had to reduce the range - more to try next time.
- Kirchmayr, Grüner Veltliner 'vom Löss', 2009, AT
- Zehnthof Luckert, Silvaner Kabinett trocken, 'Sulzfelder Cyriakusberg', 2010, DE
- Peter Jakob Kühn, Jakobus, Riesling trocken, eine Traube, 2010, DE
- Nittnaus, Burgenland-Cuvée, 2008, AT
- Tierra Divina Vineyards, REDS, Wine for the People, 2009, US
- Grifalco della Lucani, Aglianico del Vulture 'Gricos', 2008, IT
From the reactions on the evening, it is fair to say that the Austrian Grüner Veltliner won the largest number of supporters, whereas the German Silvaner seemed to divide the audience. Among the reds, the Austrian blend had most supporters but also one strong opponent, the Californian was generally enjoyed and the Aglianico, despite being a softer specimen, was too much for some.
So here we are, the people have spoken. And also had a most enjoyable night.