Talking the talk



An appreciation of 2016’s wines from Bordeaux appeared in last week’s Bloomberg Pursuits. The reviewer, attempting to convey the characteristics of more than 20 vintages, swiftly ran out of adjectives, so he started making them up.

The Lafite Rothschild was “dense, serious and expansive. Its long, complex, subtle flavors unroll in layers.” Guess he liked it. The Leoville-Las Cases was “brilliant and sumptuous with super pure fruit.” Which fruit would that be? The Clerc Milon possessed “powerful, super polished and vivacious flavors.” Imagine if they super polished the super fruit!

Fact is, wine cellar know-it-alls speak a language all their own at the best of times. It is the language of “tasting notes” and “mouth feel.” As with any secret dialect, the experts understand one another (mostly) while the rest of us wonder what the heck they just said.

So let us strip away the pretense and hoity-toity. Here, then, is your handy vinous glossary … the key to the code.

When they say “affordable,” they really mean “cheap.” When they say “accessible or approachable,” they actually mean “cheap and uninteresting.”

A few more: “young” = “unpleasantly thin”; “silky” = “pleasantly thick”; “complex” = “more than you want to spend”; “balanced” = “good, not cheap”; “perfumed” = “gross”; “unctuous” = “grosser”; “suave, sophisticated, savory” = “I like it but I don’t know why”; “delicate, boutique or artisanal” = “wicked expensive”; “soft, dense, structured and complex” = “costs an arm and a leg.”

None of the descriptors on the label of our Arcos 2013 Aglianico came close to the truth. The label claims “remarkable bouquet of dark wild berries, licorice, black currants and intriguing spicy notes.” They left out “watery.” This was one disappointing wine.

Elvis Costello said “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Same applies to wine. Step away from the keyboard and nobody gets hurt.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]
Stephen Fay

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