Descriptors are unhelpful enough without having to endure the mangling to which we often subject them. The fruit analogues are one thing; “peach” is at least somewhat determinate; the stylistic descriptors are altogether more problematic, which is a shame, because they’re often the most telling words we use as wine writers. Describe a Chardonnay as tasting like grapefruit, and I sort of know what you mean. Describe it as elegant, however, and I’m much less confident I understand the wine’s style. Yet I reach for these stylistic descriptors often in my writing, because I feel they communicate much more of the experience of drinking a wine than fruit notes, or perhaps even structural descriptions.
Partly, the problem arises because we tend to use these descriptors interchangeably, or as euphemisms for one another. To describe a wine as elegant represents an enormous (positive) value judgement, but often it’s code for “lean,” which is, to me at least, less unequivocally good. Indeed, heavily worked styles can be elegant, and lean wines clumsy. Is elegant a worthless descriptor, then? Not at all, but something so abstract must be used with precision and perhaps even caution.
This wine is a case in point. It’s not a lean wine, nor is it nimble, or dainty, or even especially fine. It is, however, complex, worked, generous and, in its way, gaudily elegant. It’s Versace to Chablis’ Armani, a wine dripping with ornament, very much a more is more aesthetic. Yet this is somehow contained within a bright, firm-enough acid structure, so that it stops short of being overwhelming and remains simply a mouth full of pea
ch, butterscotch and herb flavour, slightly hot on the finish, lacking in intensity, making up for it with some fine detail and complexity. Peregrine