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New words for a vintage

Such a lexicon has its uses in countries like India where the wine culture is taking off and the hoi polloi need an earthier basis than elusive aromas and tastes for selecting their wine.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2008 08:37 IST

For the socially mobile vino-phile, describing the taste of, say, a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, can be daunting. Especially when the long-nosed tasters have divined that it has the aroma of hazelnuts and apricots with a lemon chiffon note on the palate. The snobbery associated with such expert opinion has a pride of place in certain circles which can barely tell the difference between a white and red wine and whether it has corked.

There is now hope for a more democratic assessment of wine by identifying its texture. As the Mongolian language has more than 70 words to describe the colour of a horse, a new vocabulary based on familiar liquids, foods and household materials has evolved to speak of a vintage by its texture. Interestingly, this list ranges from emery boards, chamois leather, and talcum powder and also has adjectives like cloying, supple, disjointed and cleansing.

The implications are bound to be devastating for sommeliers.

People out for a good meal might choose to ask for a particular vintage of Chardonnay by describing its texture as lemon shampoo. Such a lexicon has its uses in countries like India where the wine culture is taking off and the hoi polloi need an earthier basis than elusive aromas and tastes for selecting their wine. The vernacular offers hope for enriching this vocabulary more colourfully.