Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Quote of the Day: Roald Dahl

It turns out the famed author of James and the Giant Peach was an opinionated wine enthusiast:
"Wine … tastes primarily of wine—grape-juice, tannin, and so on. ... If I am wrong about this, and the great wine-writers are right, then there is only one conclusion. The chateaux in Bordeaux have begun to lace their grape-juice with all manner of other exotic fruit juices, as well as slinging in a bale or two of straw and a few packets of ginger biscuits for extra flavouring. Someone had better look into this. ... I wonder, by the way, if these distinguished persons know that their language has become a source of ridicule in many sensible wine-drinking households. We sit around reading them aloud and shrieking with laughter."
He wrote that in a letter to the British wine magazine Decanter in 1988 to protest the imaginative and literary turn wine criticism was taking.

But as Mike Steinberger notes in an article called Cherries, Berries, Asphalt, and Jam: Why wine writers talk that way in Slate this week, wine critics "are acutely aware of the mockery their fanciful jargon attracts."

Further, such critics are being vindicated by science:
(For instance, the buttery note often detected in chardonnays is an aroma compound called diacetyl, which is a byproduct of malolactic fermentation [a secondary fermentation that softens the acidity in wines].)
Yes. But the old way of writing cannot be improved by science. One last quote from the Slate article as evidence:
British wine expert Michael Broadbent once likened a wine's bouquet to the smell of schoolgirls' uniforms (no, he wasn't arrested). And the late Auberon (son of Evelyn) Waugh, in his wine column for Britain's Tatler, described one wine as smelling of "a dead chrysanthemum on the grave of a still-born West Indian baby" (no, he wasn't fired, but he and his editor, Tina Brown, were brought before the Press Council to answer charges of insensitivity).

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