With wine being the most talked- and written-about beverage in the history of Planet Earth, it is inevitable that this scintillating topic attracts a heady array of clichés from those doing the speaking and writing. Standing still for a moment and collecting these worn-down terminologies is not only fun, but makes one wonder how long these lame terms can be bandied about without boring the hell out of the readers and listeners. Especially since many of these words and collections of words are utterly meaningless.
Check-out some corker wine-cliches:
- Optimal ripeness: No harvest-report is complete without the useless combination provided by these two innocent looking words. Ripeness is sort of okay and unavoidable when talking of grapes ready to be collected and turned into wine. But optimal? This word means “most favourable”, so to ascertain the dumbness of its use in the context of ripe grapes, look at the alternative option to optimal. Namely “least favourable”. Seeing as the winery has no option but to harvest its grapes at optimal ripeness, the term truly is not worth mentioning. But like any good wine cliché, it does have a cute ring of vague knowledge and know-how about it.
- Hand-harvested: Oh, but it does evoke tremendously warm-hearted cottagey images, all those smiling folk bowing among the vines and snipping off juicy bunches of grapes with glistening secateurs held in calloused knobbly fingers. Lots of colourful chattering and merriment during the picking. So what? This manual labour does not imply a superior product. Harvesting by machine is quicker and cheaper, allowing the winery to get wine out at a better price more acceptable to the consumer. Machines can also get a huge block of grapes into the cellar quickly at a consistent stage of ripeness, optimal or otherwise. Plus, they can pick the fruit throughout the night while cool conditions prevail, improving wine quality. Pick your cliché, but bin this one.
- Minerality: This surely wins the award for the most trendy and overused clod-trap of the past decade. Implying stone, rock, quartz, granite and all things geologically earthy, there is hardly a Chablis, dry Riesling or un-wooded Sauvignon Blanc that escapes the descriptor of “minerality”. Which is interestingly questionable. As unlike blackberry, citrus or green apple, I know of few wine commentators who are known to have experience in tasting things stony or mineral. So, if no-one is chewing or sucking on sharp bits of rock, stone and granite-slivers, or swallowing a chewy wad of clay, how the hell would you know what mineral tastes like? The proof is in the tasting, mate.
- Hand-crafted: Look, I’ll be the first to admit a reverence for the skill, insight, knowledge and wisdom of the winemaker. But this thing about “hand-crafted” wine is a bit of a, well, wank. Yes, there is a great amount of skill into deciding when to pick the grapes – optimal ripeness, no? – as well as those all-important, wine-defining stages of fermentation, maturation, blending, etc. But to imply that that bottle of wine is exclusively made by two palms and ten fingers is pushing it, buddy. Really.
- Food-friendly: This is normally used when a dim sommelier or a chef under-estimating his or her customer enters the wine equation. It is truly laughable were it not such a patronising term. Although one could possibly still get away with the use of “Cabernet Sauvignon and beef steak” or “Chardonnay with scallops” expressions, highlighting a wine as “food friendly” is about as commandingly expressive as saying a dog wags its tail at humans. All wine is enjoyed with food, like.
- Minimum-intervention winemaking: The main culprit here, is anyone thick enough to believe this statement. Did Paul Gauguin paint without disrupting his thought-flow with incredible artistic insight and by not intervening through the splashing of vivid colours onto a canvas? Could Chet Baker make audible magic by just simply blowing nicotine-laced air into the trumpet? Not. Wine is made by plucking grapes, altering their state through an array of acutely interventionist processes, intuitive as well as mechanical. Celebrate your intervention, not your cliché.
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