Joy and Gluttony

The Wine Philistine

February 27, 2014

Today’s the day where I out myself as a philistine of the highest order. And on the internet, no less. Recently I attended my very first wine tasting. I happily concede that I know nothing about wine. I mean, I know that if you drink too much you make friends with the bathroom floor. But aside from that, take me to any establishment that trades in alcoholic beverages and I’ll happily order the cheekiest glass of the Chateau Maison. And I’ll drink the whole thing. Without comment.

But this evening was different. We were given wines and comments in abundance. It wasn’t one of those pretentious ‘swish and spit’ events, thankfully, but I did get the impression that the wines had a far higher pedigree than me. If there had have been a freak fire near the start of the event and it had come down to saving either the wine or me in a split second decision, I feel I would have been wise to strap the wine to my body to at least stay in contention.

wine glass

The funny thing about prestigious wine is that the folks who are ‘in the know’ like to make out that it tastes absolutely disgusting. We all know that this isn’t the case. The few times I have had a night on the posh plonk I’ve found that once you find a good one it slips down easily, doesn’t get you messy drunk so quickly and is reasonably kind to your head the following morning, especially when compared to the cheapies. But, if you talk to a wine connoisseur they are at pains to explain to you the hints of diesel, the taste of slate and the delicate aromas of cat piss that can be yours for the low, low price of £22 a bottle (not the most prestigious price, but you get the idea).

If I was to bring out a new kind of chocolate bar and market it to people with tales of its ‘classic gasoline aromas’, I’d get a proverbial punch in the face. Nobody wants their orange juice to have ‘notes of slate’. Really, how many rocks do you have to lick before you begin to identify specific stony tastes in your food? Perusing through the tasting notes, I see swaths of delicious, jammy, fruity and spicy flavours, but they can’t resist intermingling these with hints of bitter bramble twigs, graphite, not just cedar but also oak and wet leaves (because if you can’t identify a tree in one slurp you’re a fool, I tell you, an absolute fool), beeswax, petrol and diesel fuel (two very different tastes, not to be confused), rubber, saline solution and wet flint rocks (the dry ones are just disgusting).

But why was I so willing to taste something described as ‘rubber’ in the first place? If I’m eating a sandwich and tell you that it tastes like rubber you will invariably deduce that it is awful and unfulfilling.  But when we stick that label on a wine we’re all going gaga, screaming ‘load me up’ and eagerly trying to compare it to the tastes experienced last time we face planted on the ground with our tongues out.

Is this a competitive thing? Are wine makers going to keep trying to outdo each other with outrageous and previously unwanted tastes until we’re all drinking wines laced with aromas of lighter fluid and hand sanitising solution?

You want to know the truly awful thing? I tried the wine with the aroma of diesel fuel and I could see their point. I understood why it was listed in the tasting notes. There was a ‘diesel’ quality to the wine. Yes, quality, though it wasn’t my favourite wine of the night. Which kind of invalidates this entire blog. Ok, nevermind. Glad to get that off my chest.

I may understand it a little more now, but I still think it’s weird.

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