Chris Kern operates a wine shop in Riverside called, epononymously, Chris Kern’s Forgotten Grapes, whose main virtue is that it’s the only place within decent driving distance that offers new wine tastings each week.
Chris specializes in what he calls, well, “forgotten grapes,” in other words, grapes with weird and obscure names — largely from Paso Robles but with a worldwide dabbling — that are also wallet friendly. But are they taste friendly? I’m beginning to think not, and I’m going to switch back to Chilean and Argentinean red varietals, along with any California or French bargains I can find.
That being said by way of introduction, what I want to focus on here, under of the moniker of “Inappropriate Language,” is how wine mavens invariably have to uncover, through their palates, the taste profile (now there’s a construct for the high and mighty!) of a wine they’re tasting for the first time.
Generally, at a tasting they’ll breathe deeply into the glass after the wine is poured, then take a sip, swirl the liquid inside their mouths, swallow slowly, and finally appear to be ruminating deeply before they pronounce their judgment.
Here’s an example I just read from a wine description, and this is typical of what you’ll hear at a wine tasting: “Loaded with wild strawberries, cherry blossom, hints of herbs and a salty minerality that makes it hard to resist, this medium-bodied, elegant, yet rich rosé stays lively, pure and fresh on the finish.”
Now, for starters the only “Wild Strawberries” I’m familiar with is a movie by Ingmar Bergman. What the heck are wild strawberries, and where do you buy them? Does this guy mean “homegrown strawberries”? And what the hell is a “salty minerality”? Does the wine taste like salty dirt?
Anyway, if you’ve ever been to a wine tasting, no one can agree on a “taste profile.” Maybe one or two ingredients will overlap on competing personal evaluations, but profiling usually leads to a game of oneupmanship, such as depicted in this scenario:
We’re all sitting at a wine bar, and the person behind the bar pours Wine X into our glasses. We go through our routines, and everyone spouts off their conflicting/overlapping ingredients. Then one guy takes another sip and pronounces that he detects “a bit of smokiness.”
Not to be outdone, the person behind the counter takes another pass at the grape and clarifies: “More than smokiness, I sense two-day old charcoal ashes from a Weber Grill that just cooked two Wagyu steaks.” Touché!
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