by Anthony Enright
I know wine reviews can seem hopelessly pretentious and kind of arcane. Sometimes all those florid descriptions of fruits and herbs with hints of like “the spare tire of a 1996 VW Jetta” can get to be a bit obnoxious and confusing. I like to think of wine descriptions as less of a direct guideline to what to expect from a wine, and more of a very specific impression made by a single individual filtered through their own literary tendencies. When you look at wine descriptions that way,the whole experience becomes so much more subjective. I say there’s an overwhelming nose of blackberries, you think they’re more like boysenberries, we’re both right! Yep, while inherent quality is clear to most, the actual flavors and textures that make that up are as individual as each taster.
So if wine descriptions are nothing more than personal narrative, perhaps you can look to literary styles when selecting your next bottle. Below are a few authors you may be familiar with along with a wine selection to accompany them. The idea is if you like their style, you’ll probably like the style of the recommended wine. Also, since I thought it would just be cute and a bit of a challenge, I’ve provided wine descriptions in the style of each author.
Torii Mor Dundee Hills Select
Pinot Noir 2007 – $45
The scent made my body ache with a barely controlled pleasure; the warm smells of freshly picked cherries and vanilla, and a masculine earthiness wafted about the room trailing wisps of desire. I sipped from the glass tasting the forbidden juice; frightening myself with the enjoyment of such delicate, feminine sensuality. I smiled slightly, my eyes dancing with a mix of laughter and lust as my lips and tongue begged for more.
David Bruce Central Coast
Petite Sirah – 2008 – $18
The darkness is overwhelming, you exit your room and head toward the bottle with an unknowable foreboding creeping up on you. Even this wine, its inky depths tearing the light from your eyes is no comfort. As you drink a long empty gulp you are reminded of ashes, tar, coal and unfortunate berries who died unremembered on the vine, their life force sapped as the summer slipped into the icy grasp of winter. You drain your glass and the alcohol burns slightly in your belly, mirroring the inevitable tug of your own mortality. It trails behind you like a cruel solitary shadow.
Olivier LeFlaive Chablis
Le Deaux Rives – $27
While I have in the past claimed that to sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure be the most perfect refreshment, my mind has been swayed of late by the Chablis recently been served by my friend and host Ms. Bennett. In lightness and balance I can attest to an abundance, and while the wine could hardly be accused of being bashful, it exhibits appropriate restraint and could never be accused of vulgarity. It is with ease and few reservations that I recommend it.
Delheim Sur Lie Chardonnay
Stellenbosch – 2009 – $18
Thanks to his constant habit of shaking the bottle in which life handed him the wine of experience, he presently found the taste of the lees rising as usual into his draught. (Sorry, that’s just an actual Henry James quote on this one, just seemed too apt…)
Screaming Eagle Napa Valley
Cabernet – 2007 – $1500 (release price)
Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to become the means by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of other men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other. When the product of the vine becomes a direct representation of the efforts of men to produce greatness the exchange of dollars for the product becomes the highest expression of the capitalist ideal. This is such a wine.
Domaine de la Perriere – Villes Vignes
Chinon – 2006 – $16
In Europe then we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well-being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary. I often picked up a Chinon at the local marchand de vins with the few meager francs I scrounged from my pockets. Without airs or pretension, the honest and humble bottles seemed more distinctly of Europe than any Bordeaux or Burgundy, for me it was the genuine flavor of the earth.