Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wine and Tripe: an unlikely combination - unless you read wine reviews.

The Magpie has long held that there are certain groups in our community that are off their rockers when it comes to public pronouncements. These include radio DJ's, architects, real estate agents and most apparent of all, wine writers.

So it was with palsied trembling that The Magpie read this week of the sale of a couple of bottles of champagne at auction for something approaching $80,000.
The two bottles of prize plonk were among a stash found in a shipwreck off-shore from a group of islands belonging to Finland in the Baltic Sea, which sounds like a place where one would need a good uplifting drink before heading out to wrassle that polar bear.

The booze is apparently in pristine condition, no worse the wear - indeed one assumes much better - for their couple of centuries soujourn on the seabed. This is known this because one of the divers who discovered the cache grabbed one, promptly surfaced at a bends-risking rate, popped a cork and took a few swigs. That would be 25,000 bucks a gargle - the diver is awaiting one helluva bar tab.

The full story is here, but the news led The `Pie to idly wonder what wine writers would have to say if ever these bottles are opened by their new albeit anonymous Singaporean owner.

Now there are writers and there are writers (sorry to get into the deep stuff so early) but here, the reference is to that upland rivulet which trickles into a creek which flows down to the mainstream river of journalistic endeavour - the wine writer.

Writers are people of many parts, and for the majority, most of the parts are working. But not, it would seem, for wine writers. 

One of The`Pie's prized possessions is an old copy of Winestate magazine from the mid-90s, wherein it is obvious that vital cogs in the wine writers' early warning system signalling absurdity have seized up. There doesn't seem to be any sense of the ridiculous, no sense of just how much codswallop we will swallow about what they swallow, and there is certainly no sense of proportion which would normally inform the writers of the difference between poetic licence and out-and-out dingbattery.

Drinking has always had its hazards for members of the Fourth Estate, but apparently it is only when wine becomes a subject to be written about that flatulence occurs at both ends, the bum and the brain.

Who else but a fully paid up member of the Honorable Order of  Outright Tuggers could actually write that the George Goulet Cuvee de Centenair champagne 'shows cocnut, smoke and mushroom complexity'. At $125 smackeroonies a bottle, there'd better be some fizzy grape taste as well.

Indeed, much of this twee guff sounds more like an aimless stroll down the aisles of a supermarket.

At $130 a pop, Veuve Cliquot is deemed to be 'solid on the nose, with butterscotch, fig, nut, smoke and baked bread characteristics, with a nutty finish'. You said it, pal.

Whoops, skipped a couple of aisles. We nearly missed the Yerninberg Lilydale pinot noir which has ' smokey, bacony complexity, and is likely to grow on you'. Like a fungus?

The Great Western Rose Brut displayed 'an agreeable Lux soap fragrance'. A wine with a clean finish, no doubt.

The Diamond Valley Blue Label pinot noir was judged 'a wine of surprising weight, with evident chocolate complexity - fine and balanced on the finish', which is probably more than could be said for the judges at the end of the session. And who could be surprised at one's weight if one has a chocolate complex?

A Bollinger RD 1982 champers ($132, ta muchly luv) is described as 'swaggering' which but for one letter would probably describe the physical and mental state of the judging panel (apparently, like grapes, judges come in bunches).

As we continue to wander through this supermarket of silliness, we are treated to such descriptive items as 'butter', 'oil', 'chewy meat flavour', 'cold tea', 'coffee', 'tobacco', and, for gawd's sake 'Vegemite'.

Vege-bloody-mite?? To praise a bottle of plonk? Struth!!

But if we whizz our trollies down to the handyman section, you'll come up with - this is all fair dinkum - 'varnish aroma', 'sawdust', 'damp wood overtones', 'hessian characteristics'  and the truly pause-giving mystery of 'a pencil shavings finish'.

It was about here that The Magpie had intended to make merry with some telling japes of his own invention, but these sodden buggers make invented levity redundant, because The `Pie at this stage came across the real show stopper.

In a loopy verdict on a Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Rose 1986, this noble drop is alleged to possess ' a duck feathers finish'.

Thuffering bloody thucotash!

Once or twice, browsing through the Tolkien-like fantasy of these pages, a spark of the baser, carnal appetites can be glimpsed. For one moment, The 'Pie thought someone had been reading his mail when they wrote about 'plump and persistent with a slightly astringent finish ... $9.80.' By sheer coincidence, that exactly describes an encounter with a strange young female in Poseurs' Bar (she spurned my offer, turning out to be, like some wines, a little tart) but it appears these words were merely a critique of the Krondorf shiraz cabernet 1990.

You know, when you see photos of wine experts, it is nearly always a head and shoulders shot, with one hand aggressively thrusting a glass up to the snozz. The other hand is always out of sight.

If you have ever wondered in what activity the unseen hand is indulging, just read a few more wine reviews and draw your own conclusions.


  1. Not sure that I would like to try a bottle of champs that tastes of 'cocnut' ;)

  2. You are soooooooo right!!! :)

  3. That's one for the ladies - of either gender.

  4. A pungent aroma reminiscent of wet football socks, with a slight hint of saffron

  5. And it not only wine where this pretentious nonsense has taken hold. They are doing the same with - of all things - beer. And only this morning, I was buying coffee beans in Cairns and, whilst waiting to be served, was chuckling to myself over the "tasting notes" beside each bag of beans. "Plum undertones" for goodness sake.

    One thing I have noted with wine is the fact that, the more effusive and ethereal the desciption on the label, the more likely it is going to taste like horse urine. (which, by the way, I HAVE tasted, but don't ask)

    What's next? Tasting notes for toothpaste - "a bold, full mouth feel, with lingering aftertones of mint and a long finish, complimented by cheeky, yet understated, fizz"???