Is This Word Necessary?

Like many people on WordPress who consider writing a great hobby, I love words. Oftentimes, a word is so obscure and nuanced in meaning, it is downright beautiful. But there are some words that I have come across in my wine studies that are convoluted in their specificity to the point that they become nothing short of awkward. I’m talking about you ‘organoleptic!’ I would much prefer to consider wine a multi-sensory experience, than an organoleptic one. And do grapes really need to be ‘autochthonous?’ There are way too many unblendable consonant blends in that word for my taste and comfort. I would much rather think of a grape as traditional, native, or indigenous.

‘Acescence’ has a nice ring to it, but wouldn’t it be easier to say, ‘this wine smells like vinegar? ‘Pétillant,’ also, while a very pretty word seems much more opaque than saying, there’s ‘some fizz’ in the wine. Acidity is very clear and useful, but isn’t ‘acidulous’ superfluous?

There are some wine words that have a usefulness far exceeding their specificity. For example, I would much rather drink a Champagne with good ‘autolytic’ character, than one with the aroma of decomposing yeast cells. The sand and clay soil deposits of rivers flow much more smoothly when they are referred to as ‘alluvial.’ And while ‘carbonic maceration’ sounds a little bit dirty, it’s a lot easier to say than, ‘enzymatic fermentation in reductive conditions.’

It is certain that too much description is always better than ‘yucky or yummy,’ when it comes to wine. I am sure, as I continue my wine studies that I will keep learning new, descriptive oenological words. I just hope they’re all wine related.

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22 comments on “Is This Word Necessary?

  1. I never thought about it before, but carbonic maceration does have a slightly pornographic reverberation to it. Very witty essay. It made me want to write a poem (and that’s a good sign, almost nothing makes me want to write a poem anymore, except, occasionally a very clever combination of words).

  2. barb ristine says:

    It seems that part of the beauty of the language of wine is that there are words that are specific in describing a particular quality. How lovely to be able to use one word to paint a multi-sensory image that conveys precisely the meaning you want. I would love to chuck the thesaurus and know that I was using the exact necessary word.

  3. Once you start getting into the meaning of these words, and then start to use them, you end up only describing wine to the very few other peopled who have become just as learned. It may be intellectually stimulating but, in my opinion, and you know our style @ww, you begin to disconnect from the majority of wine drinkers, let alone the casual wine drinker. Great post by the way!

  4. talkavino says:

    This is really not a simple issue. Like in any discipline, the specific language is a necessity. However, wine, unlike many other products, should be more often than not described in the layman terms. Telling a wine consumers that this wine exhibits brettanomyces will tell nothing to the most of them – however, describing the wine as having a pronounced barnyard smell will paint an immediate mental picture. Usage of the words really depends on who are you talking to and why…

    • foxress says:

      That’s a perfect example, brett and barnyard. And not just in talking, but in writing, also, that’s the real trick, isn’t it; to write in a way that’s interesting to people who know something about wine, but accessible to people who want to learn?

      • talkavino says:

        If you writing to explain what “brett” means, this is fine. If you use “brett” in the casual conversation with a non-pro, or use it as part of the wine description in the wine review, it will not create an emotional response.

  5. aFrankAngle says:

    Good point by Conrad. Those terms are useful when conversing with others who know the language. On the other hand, it is a good skill to be able to describe complexities for laypeople understanding.

  6. So well weaved together, as always…there is just such a great consistency in your posts. Well done.

    I knew very few of those words you mentioned, which made me happy…:)

  7. Stefano says:

    I guess it depends on a case by case basis… Acidulous, for instance, in the scale of acidity levels of the ISA wine tasting protocol identifies a wine that has an usually significant extent of acidity – one example for Italian wines would be Asprinio di Aversa. So, in this case, acidic (or fresh) and acidulous convey two different messages as to what to expect when you taste a wine.
    In other cases, I guess you are right, it is just a question of perception or personal preference – what sounds better? goudron or tar? 😉 Besides, as others noted before, I think it also depends on who your intended audience is.
    I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” answer to this… dilemma 😉

  8. Etymological prowess and it’s display in daily chit chat is usually frowned upon by our peers, who seek to call us pretentious were we to do so. They don’t the know about the sheer pleasure of reading The Tale of Two Cities without consulting cliff notes. That said, writing about it unburdens us, while also shielding us from the green eyes of said peers and their judgement. Enjoyable post.

  9. Just love this, Linda. Gentle tongue-in-cheek carries the message.
    “Taste has no vocabulary just as color has no sound.” Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, The World Atlas of Wine. It seems the harder we try for the right descriptors, the more pretentious we sound!

    • foxress says:

      Thank you, Julie. It is absolutely tongue-in-cheek. Thanks for getting that. I love the quote, but in the end, I think it is easier to be pretentious than to capture taste without vocabulary. 🙂

  10. Every field has their jargon. Jargon, at least from a linguistic standpoint, is language created or used in order to exclude others–those in the know want to show they are and weed out those that are not.

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