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I recently stumbled across this post in Metro Magazine, written by recent Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton about Literature and Elitism. It is well worth a read.


What struck me (apart from the fact that Ms Catton’s dinnertime conversation is clearly more high-brow than mine) was how many of the sentiments expressed in this article apply equally to wine, or in fact any sphere of art or craftsmanship where professionals strive to create an experience that may not be accessible to the masses.

“Which is the more presumptive, when writing a journalistic piece: to use words that some readers may not know, or to assume their ignorance and provide a glossary?”

This reminds me of endless debate about wine jargon. Is it better to avoid words like reductive, aldehydes, anthocyanins in order to attract a wider audience to a fantastic wine, or is it in fact patronising to assume that those consumers will not understand or want to understand those words? Personal but perhaps not very meaningful flavour adjectives help the individual analyse and remember the wine, but if the person you are talking to can’t relate to “cherimoya” or “acacia flowers” then does this devalue the assessment of the wine?

Since I’m about to head off to a wine tasting weekend in Melbourne in preparation for the Master of Wine exams this year, these thoughts seem very pertinant. We are endlessly told that the Master of Wine is not a tasting exam but a communication exam.

How best to convey a (often not very confident) assessment of a sensory experience involving senses with very little precise and commonly shared language allocated to them, when the assessment is based on a very personal set of associations and past experience?

Tamarillo is a common kiwi tasting descriptor for clone 10/5 PInot noir, but it is one that British examiners may be unfamiliar with. Should we avoid using it?

Yes, is the general answer. Clarity of thought and language is key to making a complex and subjective topic more scientific and meaningful.

Wish me luck in obtaining such razor-sharp precision this weekend…