Nutty wine

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by Ray, Feb 15, 2012.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Can you be extra-virgin? To me, it sounds like being better than perfect or than BJP state ministers. Demi-virgin, borrowed from French, I can make sense of. In my Oxford days, with eight male undergraduates to every female one, plenty of the latter could be so described. But extra-virgin?

    The answer, oddly, is yes, you can be that too, provided you’re Spanish or Italian olive oil. It means you’ve been extracted from the olives solely by crushing, not by heating or any other method.

    The claim is often false: olive-oil suppliers are not above mixing the supposedly finest oil with the supposedly less fine and slapping extra-virgin on the result. Very wicked, but since it takes a super-extra-expert to spot any difference in taste, and there’s none in cookery performance, no one suffers much.

    Yet Western writers on cookery now habitually insist on extra-virgin oil for their fancy recipes. Just as they insist on balsamic vinegar, whatever that may be, and on sea salt, which, though its price is 10 times higher, differs in no way from the usual salt of the West, mined from prehistoric deposits underground. Except, maybe, that the mined salt contains fewer of the chemicals that pollute today’s seas.

    Those are three examples of the linguistic silliness that has crept into Western-English writing about food. Not all is silly. The vocabulary of the Western kitchen, much of it ex-French, is large, from ingredients through the cook’s utensils and methods to the final dish. Few of us understand it. But however arcane, these are genuine technical terms, whether anglicized or not.

    More important, they have a quality true of any real language: any term means (pretty much) the same to all its users or readers. But not so in one field: wine writing. This used to be thought snobbish. That charge is rare now that ever more households can afford decent wine and wine journalists have multiplied accordingly. But there is a graver charge: that their words quite often convey no meaning at all.

    Wine buffs claim to detect umpteen distinct tastes or aromas in wine. They may be right, but the results are often laughable. Just what is a wine that is soft and buttery, or floral and grassy? Or spiky and leafy? Or fat, earthy and herby? Or tangy and verdant? Or nutty, buttered-toast and tropical fruit-laden? Or that has exotic, zesty, green bean, bell pepper, lime peel and peapod flavours?

    You needn’t be a stranger to Western eating or drinking habits to ask. I don’t know either. The experts may, but to 99 per cent of their readers they might as well be using Greek script to write Cantonese.

    Worse than that, do even the experts agree on what the words mean? If so, all should find the same flavours/aromas in a given wine; these are physical qualities, not abstracts. Yet compare two experts’ descriptions of one wine and you can often wonder. And if you’re right, the whole edifice crashes linguistically to earth: these experts aren’t even talking in a shared language, however arcane, but each one a language of his own.

    Few readers of The Telegraph, I imagine, are exposed to this babel. A pity, in a way: it offers some good laughs to anyone who prefers English to Winese. Not that abuse of language is a laughing matter: even just after St Valentine’s Day — forgive me, any Hindutvanatic readers — I’d sooner see English extra-virgin than deflowered into, literally, non-sense.

    Nutty wine
  3. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    nobody says extra virgin olive oil its EVOO :p

    Telegraph is quite literally behind the Times :D

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