The Evolution of Language…in One Night

Chenin BlancWhen tasting wines with my wine group, I am confident of my facts. What are the qualities of Chenin Blanc, someone asks. ‘ High acidity, high yielding, climate adaptable. Its famous regions are Loire, South Africa, California and Argentina,’ I can recite without taking a breath. Oh, yes, I have mastered my 719 index cards. But when it comes to tasting, I am still learning the language.

In the Jean-Claude Bougrier Vouvray V that retails for $13, I taste pear, lemon, grapefruit and wet stone. I congratulate myself for picking up on four aromas in a chilled white. Then someone says, ‘beeswax!’ What? ‘White flower,’ someone else calls out. ‘White flower?! Which one?’ I go in for another sip. I’m just getting warmed up. Then we’re on to the Reserve that retails for around $16…’pear…grapefruit, wait, those are the same aromas, I mean words I used for the last wine. Make it pink grapefruit and something tropical. How about guava? Yes, and wet stones. It must be from France.

The Chateau Mossé Magic of JuJu at $21 is just like biting into a tart, juicy apple with a hint of almond. I like its simple, direct crispness.

$10 Spier from the Western Cape of South Africa offers up…can I say pear, yet again? Oh, yes, and…guava, wait, here’s something new…white peach. Yes, white, decidedly not a yellow peach, not at all, but the sweet, subtle fragrance of a white peach.

By the time we get to the $19 Protea, my lexicon is gaining some momentum. I’ll see your white peach and raise you some lime, make that lime zest and a flower…lets say honeysuckle. And there’s some creaminess to it. I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve heard the word ‘lanolin’ bantered around, but I don’t know what that smells like or feels like, so I’ll just say a creamy finish.

The $12 Dancing Coyote out of Clarksburg, California hit us all immediately with a strong earthy aroma, then came the wet stones and some citrus. Good, we were all smelling the same thing…and thyme I offer. No one concurs. Well, silence is acceptance. I’ll jot that down. Then out of the group come the words, ‘gun smoke.’ What?! I’m just getting the hang of the fruits, flowers, herbs and earth. Gun smoke? Like the musket fire in Market Square? Well, that one is getting stored away for a future tasting.

The $6 Sea Ridge is bitter/sweet…grapefruit skin and candied pineapple and honeysuckle with a mild oak influence. I know I’m repeating my words, but these are all Chenin Blancs after all. There must be some commonality, yet, each so different, like fingerprints all with whorls, loops and arches, but each in a different combination. The aroma prints are what make wine so endlessly fascinating.


9 comments on “The Evolution of Language…in One Night

  1. Theresa says:

    I feel your frustration. I share it! I blame it on allergies. 😉

    • foxress says:

      Thanks for reading, Theresa. It is interesting to me how our perceptions and language are different and how they both evolve in the context of community.

  2. Fun! Combining words with sensory experience — just my cup of tea, make that a nice creamy Oolong with peach and lychee notes.

    I’m reading a volume of 100 poems right now, an advanced reading copy (will be published in October 2014) loaned to me from a perfumer whose fragrances inspired 2 of the poems– “The Book of Scented Things.” The poems are good, but even more interesting are the introduction and the preface, written by poet Jehanne Dubrow and perfumista and memoir writer Alyssa Harad. I feel some really good blog posts coming on about all this, perhaps even an anthology of new poems….

    But, as someone who develops slowly (like a fine wine, I prefer to think), those will be a while in the making. First I have to finish my current alphabet series…

    • I didn’t finish my thought. I meant to say, about the book, that it is, of course, about aroma / scent. Which is inexplicably, but not always, linked to taste and yet infinitely more difficult to put into words. Aromas are ethereal in the truest sense of the word, made of air.

      But it is such a pleasurable way to spend time, “gasping for language.”

      • foxress says:

        I love that phrase, ‘gasping for language.’ Sometimes at wine tastings I feel like I’m ‘inhaling for language.’ If I just breath a little deeper I’ll come up with just the right word!

      • I love it too! I put that phrase in quotes, because it isn’t mine… I love it, too.

        Although I did sort of condense it. It’s not exactly a direct quote from the perfume poetry book. But I cannot take credit for it.

  3. Flint! Always gets me weird looks 🙂 So happy to hear guava! I thought it was my tropical upbringing.

    • foxress says:

      Ernest, it is so interesting to hear how differently people describe the same wine. But once a word comes up, then everyone can smell it. So, does language sharpen our perception, or does perception sharpen our language?

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