Friday, March 27, 2009

On Wine Fools

Picture the scene. A wine tasting of high end Old World wines, let’s say Burgundies. The room is bustling with all manner of wine drinkers, all with different levels of experience from the professional to the newly minted wine drinker. Most are gathered around the pourers, glasses thrust forward for their share of amber liquid.

A small group of three stands apart, a wine neophyte, a Sommelier and a wine critic, each with his nose inserted deeply into his glass of Grand Cru Chambolle-Musigny. Screwing up his face and exhaling a snort through his nose the wine critic is first to offer an opinion “This is ghastly”. The neophyte, taken aback, casts his eyes to the floor but then summons the courage to say “No I disagree. Underneath that unusual odor there is a delicate floral aroma that I find appealing”. The Sommelier, smiling kindly, looks at the neophyte. “Yes, you are right. There is something there that is quite attractive. Well done, a floral note can be quite typical of a Chambolle-Musigny. But do you also detect the musty, wet newspaper odor as well? And when you taste the wine do you find it more than a little acidic, even metallic, and lacking fruit character?” “Well, yes” says the neophyte. “I smell and taste those things but I don’t know what they are. Do you know?”

“They are typical of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or TCA. Its most often produced when fungi convert chlorophenol into chloroanisole. It can be a problem with a small percentage of corks which is why a wine smelling of TCA is said to be corked.” “Ah, so that is what a corked wine smells like” says the neophyte, burying his nose into his wine glass once again. “I have smelt that in a few wines, but I didn’t know what it was. Thank you for explaining it to me.”

Turning to the critic the Sommelier adds “What do you think about our new friend. He has quite a good sense of smell. With a little more knowledge on wine faults he will be an asset to our tasting group.” “No, he is a fool” scoffs the critic,”It doesn’t matter what he can smell. A corked wine is a corked wine”, and walks off to find others of similar persuasion. “Don’t mind him” says the Sommelier “He’s always been a wine snob”.

What prompted this little post? Just the opinion that if you are going to call a wine drinker a fool you probably are not a person that will draw a sympathetic audience when you want to talk (or write) about wine.

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