I’ve been thinking about the inadequacy of language a lot lately. Which I guess is a rather odd thing for a writer to do. But I’m thinking especially about the way people communicate how a wine tastes or how it smells and - for want of a better way to say it (see what I mean?)- how it makes them feel.
There are so many ways in which a wine’s character can be parsed. It can be summed up by a series of descriptors (berries, earth, spices and so on) or it can be delineated by its structural elements- tannin, acid etc. Or it can be described by some of the most maddening words in the English language.
What are they? I asked Joe Salamone and Tom Stephenson, the brain trust at Crush Wines in New York (www.crushwineco.com) what they thought some of the most inadequate, most difficult-to-decipher words might be. Their answers were both funny and insightful. “Yucky taste,” Tom offered. “Customers will ask us for a wine ‘without that yucky taste' - as if we have two sections in the store, “Yucky Taste” and “Without Yucky Taste.” "Harsh," is another he offered. And "bitter" too.
According to Joe, people often ask for a wine “without bite” or a wine that's “dry." That’s a really hard wine to figure out, Joe says. Dry is a pretty wide spectrum of wine, after all. But the most perplexing word of all? The word that tells a retailer or anyone else for that matter, the very least? “Smooth.” They both answered - smoothly in unison.
What do YOU think are the most inadequate words in the language of wine ?