In my decades of writing about wines, I’ve described them as smelling and tasting like vanilla, white peaches, yellow apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, boysenberries, lingonberries, mulberries, coffee, mocha, chocolate, tobacco, smoke, minerals and earth. And more.
I once taught my 8-year-old daughter to sniff any wine I put under her nose and complain: “It fades on the middle palate.”
I can’t help it — I’m enthusiastic. And I’m not the most effusive wine scribe by a long shot.
I’ve seen a writer find baked apples, preserved lemons, kaffir limes, quince, smoky ginger and cloves. In a single glass of chardonnay.
I’ve seen a critic say a certain wine “plumbed the depths of the human condition.” And another say, “This grape ought to be eradicated.”
Please don’t make fun of our “winespeak.” And don’t call us “wine snobs.” It hurts our feelings. True, we can get carried away, waxing purple over wines that have rocked our worlds.
But we mean well, most of us. You wouldn’t call us snobs if we expressed equal enthusiasm over baseball stats or auto parts.
And we pay a price.
I once called a wine “viscous,” meaning it seemed thick and sugary. A reader emailed: “Where do you get off calling a wine ‘vicious’?!”
I said a heady red wine smelled like iodine, and a reader gasped: “You mean they put iodine in wine?”
I wrote that a chardonnay smelled like vanilla. My editor said it didn’t either; it smelled like chardonnay. I grumped about this to a wine professor friend with a degree in chemistry, and he pulled out a napkin and drew a picture of the molecule that made that wine smell like vanilla.
I felt so good. But I didn’t show it to my editor.
Readers often say they can’t find such a plethora of aromas and flavors in wines. It is supremely subjective. But I believe the longer you drink wine the more flavors you find.
If you want to develop your wine-sniffing skills, you can Google a “wine aroma kit” made up of 15 or 20 little vials of liquid with lab-created aromas of everything from red plums to cinnamon to lemons, so you can do a practice “blind sniffing.”
Warning: It can be humbling if you misidentify something as obvious as the scent of pineapples.