• Translating wine
  • Date: 2013-07-12
  • Personal thresholds define our appreciation for wine

    Magandeep Singh


    The best part of wine for me is perhaps the worst part about wine for most aspiring vinos. Someone who truly wants to learn how to enjoy wine is always faced with a dilemma as to why can’t anybody tell them the best wine to try so that they could know exactly what defines the standards in this industry.


    In whisky it would appear easier (although it isn’t really), as also in beer, coffee, and chocolate (again, it isn’t) but wine is considered so perplexing that nobody seems to comprehend the anomalies which punctuate the learning curve.

    Take the grape Gewürztraminer for example. Gewürz is German for spicy. Make an Indian smell the wine and he will find nothing spicy about it; in fact he will believe that someone somewhere is defying Shakespeare by calling a rose by another name. And lychees. That is Gewürztraminer for us. The olfactory translation just doesn’t happen. Now imagine how arbitrary things sound when the grape is not as defined in its aromas. Think of grapes like Pinot Grigio where one man’s mineral is another man’s, I don’t even know what really…


    And then the problem magnifies. If it weren’t enough that wine is interpreted differently by us, two people from the same area can also have differences of opinion depending on what their formative smell composition is. If one grew up in a field of lavender, s/he will catch that note first. Another person who grew up near a pepper plantation will be able to tell it in trace amounts. Don’t know what it says for someone who grew up near an oil refinery though.


    The trick then is to be honest to just one person, yourself. Your senses should be your absolute truth – listen to them for they never lie to you. You may choose to over-ride their message but it doesn’t obliterate it. A wine tasting isn’t about agreeing with the majority present, it is about speaking up and sharing what you find in your glass, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Some may laugh but that’s just their loss.


    And then the last thing happens, the same grape on different soils or altered environs shows different traits. While this is a lesser problem it can surely blur any crisp discussion on the five exacting notes to be expected from any given grape. A Cabernet can range from blackberry and plummy to spicy and peppery, to even minty and sometimes, capsicum-like. All these are acceptable, but in what levels depends on the person tasting it.


    Personal thresholds are what define our appreciation for any wine. These enable us to word what we like or don’t like about it. it takes away the option of saying a wine is good or bad simply because we didn’t like it. And this is the biggest education that wine leaves us with: expanding our horizons and broadening our acceptability to accommodate other opinions and views.


    So much civility wrapped up in a beverage, no wonder it has been the drink of kings. Maybe I exaggerate. But next time you grab a glass, think about what it makes you feel.  King-like or not, anything lesser than a medium-level courtier should be considered unacceptable.


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