We have all been there. Writing about wine starts with the WSET approach – all lees stirring, malolatic fermentation and so on. There might even be the addition of a score (out of 100? 20? Out of five stars??) and while this might be a fine indicator for many of the overall quality level of a wine, does a liquid that can be so diverse, really need to be ranked in such a way. Its debasing a wine to a level that computers talk at – hence so many ratings review sites use such a score (its easy to shove in a database). But how does one compare a 91 point Sauternes with a 92 point Sicilian red…
After realising that points and ‘straight’ tasting notes many look for some point of difference and interest – its all been tried: photos trying to sum up a wine in a single image, notes so oblique and crazy (however funny or apt they appeared at the time), even attempts in video form to encapsulate a wine without actually mentioning ‘wine’. All these approaches have merit but unless you have some insider knowledge larger wasted. Moving and still images are good, especially on the internet. Humour is also fine. But unless you are in the know just another level of the impenetrable wine world.
So easy to see why the masses never venture beyond the £3.99 discounted Pinot Grigio.
Perhaps the Winebird has come up with another approach that might, just, make wine more approachable and understandable for all. Winebird, aka, Helena Nicklin, has ‘invented’ vinalogy: wine basics with a twist.
[vin-nal-uh-je] – noun, plural – gies
A vinous analogy that paints memorable pictures of anything wine-related.
Winebird suggests thinking of a bottle of wine as a person – naked. She then uses this analogy to break it all down into four key elements that determine the style of the wine: the raw DNA (grape variety), clothes (climate), haircut (vineyard – think pruning) and make-up (winemaking techniques). Everthing else can and should come later.
So we have the Ballerina (Pinot Noir), the Polo Player (Malbec), the Mermaid (Albarino) , the Beekeeper (Chenin Blanc), the Rock Star (Pinotage) and the Ladyboy (Nebbiolo). Which is all fun, fine and dandy, but opening up her new book the first grape encountered is Sauvignon Blanc as an English Country Garden… so not all are people.
“Breathe in the scent of freshly cut grass, damp ferns and asparagus in the vegetable patch. Elderflower and gooseberry bushes gracefully frame a wet stone path and the faint hint of classical music is just audible in the background. Ah, the peace and tranquillity! But what’s this?
The rain has stopped, temperature is rising and someone has turned the volume on the stereo right up to the mas. What’s more, they’ve added some bongo drums to the mix. The garden has taken on the feel of a tropical fiesta, and I swear the plants have grown bigger. Look what happens when you add some sun!“
It is all rather fun, perhaps more suited to tasting events than the written word, but I rather like the style. Can you apply the approach to every grape variety? I’m not totally convinced – but maybe that isn’t the need or the intention. Once you have been introduced to the main grapes and wine styles you should perhaps be ready to move on…
Incidentally, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris is, in the vinalogy world, the flat-pack furniture grape!