In my decades of writing about wines, I’ve described them as smelling and tasting like vanilla, white peaches, yellow apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, boysenberries, lingonberries, mulberries, coffee, mocha, chocolate, tobacco, smoke, minerals and earth. And more.
I once taught my 8-year-old daughter to sniff any wine I put under her nose and complain: “It fades on the middle palate.”
I can’t help it — I’m enthusiastic.
And I’m not the most effusive wine scribe by a long shot.
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I’ve seen an ad writer find Asian pears, baked apples, preserved lemons, kefir limes, quince, smoky ginger and cloves. In a single glass of chardonnay.
I’ve seen a critic say a particular wine “plumbed the depths of the human condition.” And another say, “This grape ought to be eradicated.”
Please don’t make fun of our “winespeak.” And don’t call us “wine snobs.” It hurts our feelings. True, we get carried away sometimes, waxing purple over wines that have rocked our worlds.
But we mean well, most of us. You wouldn’t call us snobs if we expressed equal enthusiasm over baseball stats or auto parts.
And we pay a price.
I once called a wine “viscous,” meaning it seemed thick and sugary. A reader emailed: “Where do you get off calling a wine ‘vicious’?!”
I said a heady red wine smelled like iodine, and a reader gasped: “You mean they put iodine in wine?”
I wrote that a chardonnay smelled like vanilla. My editor said it didn’t either; it smelled like chardonnay. I grumped about this to a wine professor friend with a degree in chemistry, and he pulled out a napkin and drew a picture of the molecule that made that wine smell like vanilla.
I felt so good. But I didn’t show it to my editor.
Also, many writers use “memory aids” to help us identify particular wines. If a wine tastes like blueberries, it might be a pinot noir. If it tastes like black cherries and black pepper, it might be a merlot. If it smells like a freshly cut lawn, it’s probably a sauvignon blanc.
Readers often say they can’t find such a plethora of aromas and flavors in wines. It is supremely subjective. But I believe the longer you drink wine the more flavors you find.
If you want to develop your wine-sniffing skills, you can Google a “wine aroma kit” made up of 15 or 20 little vials of liquid with lab-created aromas of everything from red plums to cinnamon to lemons, so you can do a practice “blind sniffing.”
Warning: It can be humbling if you misidentify something as obvious as the scent of pineapples.
Readers, do you have your own “memory aids” for identifying wines? If so, send them to me at the email address below. Include your name and city. I'll share them with other readers.
▪ 2014 Freemark Abbey Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Calif.: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of ripe peaches, mangos and spice, full-bodied and lush, long finish; $30.
▪ 2013 Edmeades Zinfandel, Mendocino County, Calif.: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of red raspberries and spice, ripe tannin, medium body; $20.
▪ 2013 Jackson Estate Pinot Noir, by Kendall-Jackson, “Outland Ridge,” Anderson Valley, Calif.: hint of oak, aromas of smoky oak and black raspberries, flavors of blueberries and coffee, firm tannins; $35.
▪ 2014 White Knight Viognier, Clarksburg, Calif.: aromas of white flowers and vanilla, flavors of ripe apples and melons, fruity and lush; $12.
▪ 2013 Silver Palm Merlot, North Coast, Calif.: hint of oak, flavors of black cherries and black pepper, ripe tannins; $18.
▪ 2013 Handcraft “Artisan Collection” Cabernet Sauvignon, California: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black currants and licorice, full body, firm tannins; $12.
▪ 2015 Dark Horse Sauvignon Blanc, California: aromas and flavors of white grapefruit, lemons and green melons, light and crisp; $10.
▪ 2014 Leese-Fitch Chardonnay, California: aromas of ripe apples and pears, creamy and smooth, full-bodied; $12.