Blog: Olly WehringMr (Wine) Writer? Why don't you tell it like it really is?

Olly Wehring | 29 May 2009

An interesting story in wine magazine Decanter this week suggests that wine drinkers in Asia are struggling to understand the kind of language used in Western wine descriptions.

The magazine carries a piece by a master of wine from the region, claiming that consumers in Asia can't get their heads round tasting notes used by wine writers in the west.

That makes two of us, then.

On my trips away, I've met a wealth of wine writers, all from Europe or the US. The vast majority of them are lovely, lovely folk: knowledgeable, informed, educated, GSOH.

But try as I might to read their musings, I've regularly found my eyes glaze over. In the recent TV series Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure, wine philistine James May summed up the level of knowledge of millions of wine drinkers. “It tastes a bit wine-y,” he said after one of his first tastings.

Describing a wine as having notes of bitter chocolate and fresh tobacco is all well and good in an artistic sense, but do we – never mind the drinkers of Asia – really understand what this wine is like?

There remains a gulf between the wine writer and the man in the street – the man who shops at Tesco or Asda, or Waitrose, if he's feeling flush.

I fear this flowery use of language might be the very definition of that gulf.


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