In my day job I spend a lot of time writing tasting notes, reading tasting notes and correcting tasting notes. Sometimes they’re to go on the back of wine bottles, sometimes onto wine menus, and others go completely unseen tucked away in my little black book. I often feel embarrassed when someone glances at what I’ve written as my wine-short-hand is pretty personal and I have some unusual acronyms. My favourite is MLP. Its short for My Little Pony and it’s an aroma I often get on red wines that are slightly reduced or have an excessive amount of residual sugar. It reminds me of that sweet plastic smell that also hung to the little plastic Care Bear figurines…. You see, I told you it was personal!
And just as a tasting note you write is personal to you so should the tasting note written on the back of a wine bottle be personal to that wine. Having said that I come across far too many back labels and wine menu notes that are boring generic statements that have been written in a one size fits all manner to reduce printing costs and brain power, I assume. You’ve all seen them;
Back label of wine A:
“Only the finest grapes are pressed at our state of the art winery to produce this *insert wine name here/ discounted supermarket blend*. It is dry and fruity with a hint of wood on the finish. We’re sure you’ll love this wine which goes well with all types of food, but is also good on its own or shared with friends. Drinking well now. Best served at room temperature.”
Wine list description of wine Z:
“Light, fruity, dry and refreshing’
They’re such non committal descriptors that you could attach them to one of at least a hundred wines and not be any the wiser. This uninspired way of talking about wine has filtered into the new generation of wine companies who seem obsessed with the word fun. “Our philosophy is to make wine fun” “Our wine tastings are a unique and fun experience” You see? I don’t know about you but all this talk of fun makes me feel kinda left out, I never received the press release announcing wine had become un-fun…. did you?
For companies using the word ‘fun’ to describe their approach to wine I beg you to reconsider. Think of hiring a new marketer, better still consider hiring a marketer! Failing that you could start by simply giving your audience a bit more credit, it is a given that they’re over 18, n’est pas!
When I read women’s magazines I always envy their continually evolving and creative use of words to describe the latest trends, but a piece on Garence Doré’s fashion blog the other week made me realise that it’s not as easy to come up with new phrases as I’d like to believe. She was exhausted by some fashion words that are way over used;
Trendy, Fashionista, Must have, Celeb, ‘in’, LBD (Little Black Dress), Style icon, “It” (it-bag, it girl)
So even the aspirational world of fashion can struggle to verbally reinvent itself, it’s no wonder then that words like fun are difficult to shift when it comes to wine and there are many more I’d like to see banished to the editors floor. Here’s my list of exhausted wine words, I’d love to hear yours…..
FUN, de-mystifying, ABC (anything but chardonnay), Icon wine, Reserva (unless legally expressing the winemaking/aging process), House wine (a wine marketers nightmare)
As for wine back labels here’s a before and after I’d like you to consider, they’re of the same wine, one written by me, one written by the winery word for word as it appears on the label.
1. “Chardonnay Pays d’Oc, Indication Geographic Protégée, Mis en Bouteille au Domaine”
2. “Crunchy white apples and pears on the nose with a hint of grapefruit pith. Like a a wet spring morning the flavours are fresh and grassy, some pear drops linger with some riper white stone fruits on the finish. Serve chilled from the fridge.’
I know which wine I’d buy. Honestly, you’d think someone like Majestic would know better…..!