The worst wine review that I’ve ever read described the wine as ‘incredibly limpid’.
- clear, transparent, or pellucid, as water, crystal, or air: We could see to the very bottom of the limpid pond.
- free from obscurity; lucid; clear: a limpid style; limpid prose.
- completely calm; without distress or worry: a limpid, emotionless existence.
Now, I presume that the reviewer was attempting to describe the wine as transparent, without sediment or impurities. But, I could be mistaken…maybe the reviewer was saying the wine was calm; not effervescent or bubbly or showing any volatility. Or perhaps, the implication was that the wine made a clear statement; it was unburdened by complexity.
Or most likely, the reviewer was pretending that they actually knew something about wine and would therefore use an adjective that was a really poor choice in describing a wine as a means to confuse the public about their own qualifications.
Am I being too harsh? I don’t think so. Wine writers delight in using overwrought and tortured phraseology to describe a wine. And I don’t think it’s because wine unleashes the hidden poet in all of us. It’s because that when people (in this case, wine reviewers) don’t know what the hell they are talking about, they cover up their lack of knowledge in flowery and imprecise language. And this practice has been going on for so long that wine consumers are intimidated and shame-faced because they can’t talk nonsense about a wine. People regularly apologize because they don’t have the ‘proper’ vocabulary to describe a wine.
People, people, people! Stop feeling ashamed because you can’t lie glibly about a wine! Instead, realize that when the language that the wine ‘expert’ starts spewing out becomes vague, imprecise, colloquial, and/or rhetorically ornate, it’s because they are full of shit and are trying to hide that fact from you.
Look, wines are sometimes difficult to describe because the flavors are muted or evocative rather than straight forward. Sometimes it’s because our personal experience isn’t broad enough to precisely define an aroma or flavor (is that a violet or acacia flowers? Blackberry or blueberry jam? Rome or fuji apple? White or green asparagus?) Wine professionals, those people that actually work in the wine business, taste literally thousands of wines and work hard to identify flavors and aromas. Many wine reviewers have an actual interest, but because they often have a day job, don’t have the opportunity to taste and learn and understand many wines. So, they make stuff up. Or memorize the back label of the bottle. Or regurgitate wine reviews that they read online. Anything to continue to illustrate their ‘expertise’.
So here’s what I’m suggesting…if the person spouting off on the radio on in the food section of the newspaper doesn’t actually have a job in the wine industry, don’t trust their opinion. They may very well be nice, well-read, well-spoken and kindly individuals who like wine and have several hundred wines in their ‘cellar’, but that doesn’t make them experts. It makes them opinionated. Do you take your car to a car collector or a mechanic when it breaks? When you’re sick do you visit a medical illustrator or a doctor? Your neighbor that chops firewood for you is a great guy to have around, but probably can’t fix your furnace.
And while I’m ranting…a sommelier is an actual distinction, not a description of the kid that brought you the wine list. And, passing the entry level ‘somm’ exam is like studying pre-med and graduating college…you’re not a doctor yet. Restaurant staff (and wine reviewers) that appropriate titles like sommelier for themselves without actually working and earning the distinction are the worst kind of frauds. They are right up there with people that call themselves ‘chefs’ but don’t actually run a professional kitchen. It’s not a lifetime appointment, like Senator or Governor…its a job. And once you don’t do the job any longer, you don’t get to use the title.