The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
No aspect of winemaking contains as much scope for posturing and pretentiousness as the art of tasting wine. No single group of people (with the possible exception of hifi reviewers) have the capacity to spout torrents of complete cobblers in the way winetasters can.
However, if you stop to think, it is difficult to describe the taste of anything, except in terms of the taste of other things. The entire system of taste is purely relative. Communicating your description of taste is all about generating an image with words and trying to convey this to others. This is not easy, thus the resultant twaddle can be justified.
After all your efforts making the wine it is reasonable to want, not only the enjoyment of drinking, but the entertainment value as well. Believe me, a group of normally civil people standing around making noises like a hippo drinking soup is rather entertaining.
On the subject of making noises, it is vital the make as many disgusting slurping noises as your neighbours can cope with. This enhances the flavour. The slurping is bought about by the taster trying to cover his entire mouth with wine whilst trying to sniff the vapours at the same time. The resulting choking splutter is really funny.
Once the wine is inside the winetaster he will then talk about his experiance, aided by the alcohol working its way through his system.
The standard winetasting evening will then consist of several bottles being opened, and lots of cheese and biccies being eaten. The cheese is especially important because it tastes nice. At this stage you will end up with six or seven third drunk bottles of wine, these all too often get drunk up as the evening progresses, providing ever more colourful descriptions of the wine.
At this point some examples would be apt.
Us : In the great name of science, Tom and Alec (and miscellaneous assistant) engaged pretention circuits and sipped some home-made Baileys.
Them : In case you thought we were kidding, here are some genuine quotes (I kid thee not)
A : Creamy, with a certain powdery aftertaste
T : A spiritus zing I find
A : Zing? I think it a little too silky and velvetty to 'zing' at all.
T : Schloom then? A spiritus schloom?
A : Perhaps. Is that spiritus in the Bhuddhist sense?
Paul (misc helper) : Or more the Zen sense.
T : A vibrant nose
Paul the helper : A vibrant assault upon the nose
A : A vibrant assault upon the nose with a cotton wool, um...
Paul the helper : Intimidating cuddly crocodile?
The discussion degenerates briefly before some fresh ammunition is fetched, in the form of some (non homebrew) irish whiskey
T : Honey
A : Honey? In what way honey?
T : Smooth...
A : Smooth like a knife between the ribs?
T : Smooth like an electric sander.
After Alec's brain got out of his head and went and sulked behind the chair, Tom realised drastic action was called for. "Another bottle required methinks." Alec's brain is temporarly called back into service to open the new bottle, bodly labelled 'Orange Blossom'. Alec regards the label's claim to say 'Medium Dry' with great suspicion, but takes a sip.
A : Good god! Its medium dry!
Paul : Sweeter, even, perhaps
T : Pah, you have no idea about sweet.
Paul (wittering): Crotchet, or even semiquaver dry.
Alec complains bitterly about the polyfilla in his nose??!!??
Tom recommends a good pharmacist
A : If it is orange then it is a pastel orange found on a bath towel.
P : Like an orange seen from space.
A : Not a dryness you would find in a desert, more that of a bookshop.
P : Perhaps some sand in the desert reminiscing on his travels to sweeter places, like a fudge shop.
A : Excuse me while I tesselate my stilton.
Tom starts a trend of doing hippo impressions. He is the only person who pulls it of without dying.
P : Hits the tongue like a pingpong ball rebounding of a mackerel.
T : Welcome to the fraternity of silly people.
Alec starts describing a coffeecup.
T (desperatly) : Back to the wine
Paul makes a bodily pun.
A : An introvert non career minded wine. It would make a good temp.
T : We'll have to drink it all quickly then. I'll get the plum if you like.
A : That is a wine that starts at the bottom and ends up running the company.
P : It would be a good Sinn Fein politician.
T : It would be a damn fine contestant on 'Have I got news for you'
Tom decides not to get the plum on account of wanting to live for the following week, so instead wields the (new) parsnip.
T : Earthy
P : Subterranean, like a mole trying to surface,
T : ...yet discovering a pantomime horse sitting on his head.
A : Bublubluble
T : Definitley more thigh than leg
T : Alec's next words will be "I see"
Tom puts on "The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking"
A : I see
The exercise slithers into vague vagueries, and is declared 'at an end'
These are quotes that floated my way recently. They are from some grand port-tasting festival or something.
On the nose there was at first dark raisin with a touch of toffee, then briary, dusty blueberry and a bit of dusty chocolate. The alcohol was still showing a bit on the nose. On the palate sandalwood and spices predominated at first, with spirity plum and a herbal/pine undercurrent. Chewy chocolate emerged, then cherry eau-de-vie. This Dow's has real firmness and density--what is often referred to as "grip."
There was a burnt/charred raisiny edge to the warm toffee-toned nose. This bottle displayed quite a bit of alcohol on the nose, and I feel it was not the best possible example of this Port. On the palate it was chocolatey, with restrained walnut notes and undertones of cherry and dried cherries. After a while more spiciness emerged, that sandalwood character I often find in Port, with some more chocolate. Walnut predominated on the finish.
Aromas of charry dark raisin and plum showed here, in a dry vein, with an interesting hint of wintergreen. The flavors were lovely and subdued; walnut with minty hints. There was butterscotch, without implying over-sweetness, then nuts and plums. Still round in the mouth, but evolving toward more leanness. More chocolate came out, then sandalwood, then hints of apricot that seemed rather Cognac-like.
The nose here revealed a more exotic aura of pot-pourri, but in a dusty, subdued way. There's still ripe berry on the palate--dusty, briary thimbleberries. Some chocolatiness, with a charry edge, emerges, developing more coffee and sandalwood overtones. The finish tended more toward chocolate and dark raisin.
This wine was made from pre-phylloxera vines and was amazingly vibrant. On the nose there was wonderful dark, deep charry molasses, with hints of fruitcake and dark shoeleather and a touch of camphor. The aromas were focused and penetrating. The nose, especially, made one think of older Madeira or a fine Pedro Ximenez Sherry. On the palate this Port was very sweet, with molasses and fruitcake notes predominating and some fresh, almost citrus-like acidity. The fruity facets reminded me of rich and rounded apricot, peach, red cherry--pit fruits with a charry edge--as well as the kind of dried fruit chunks one finds in fruitcake and panettone. The Symingtons referred to this one as "treacly"--the texture was thick without being cloying. The lively concentration of fruit kept the sweetness from being overwhelming; the balance in this Port's cornucopia of fruit/charry/molasses elements was stunning.
So you see, and you thought we were taking the piss.