Created By: MasoTeyJuly 27, 2013 Last Edited By: MasoTeyJanuary 31, 2014
Troped

The Language of Wine

Wine flavors described in flowery, cryptic, or anthropomorphic terms.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Title suggestions: Lingua Vinum (+2, -2); Sommelier Speak (+1, -1); Wine Talk; Wino Lingo (-1)

In fiction and satire, if someone is called upon to describe the flavor of a wine, they will begin speaking in a kind of Purple Prose which may include any of the following:
  • Sesquipedalianly loquacious gushing or ranting.
  • Elaborate, perhaps mixed, metaphors.
  • Personification of the wine, ascribing to it personality traits, moods, and even moral agency.
  • Tastes Like Feet, except not necessarily negative: even an admirable wine may be compared to metal, cat pee, gasoline, or the like.
  • Stock phrases, "A good year" being especially common.

A variant combines this with Alien Lunch or I Ate What — another substance is mistaken for, or passed off as, wine, and the unwitting drinker describes it in similar terms. And see also Expensive Glass Of Crap.

Partial Truth In Television, as detailed in this article. Wine is complex (often several flavour notes will be in the same one, and the combinations can sound discordant, like black cherry/pepper/tobacco) and volatile (the lingering taste in the drinker's mouth, called the "finish", can be different than the initial sensations). It is also important to note that the terms used to describe wine flavors, like "black cherry" or "plum," do not necessarily mean that the wine tastes like those things — rather, these are agreed-upon terms for specific but hard-to-articulate flavors.

See also Wine Is Classy.


Examples:

Advertising
  • There was an advert for Gordon's Gin in the UK where a very pretentious guy at a garden party was going on about a glass of wine having aromas of things like wood pigeon and pebbles in the rain and being mocked by two nearby gin and tonic drinkers.

Anime and Manga
  • Kami No Shizuku is a manga about wine tasting and serving that is memetic for trying too hard to make being a sommelier sound awesome, and naturally is drowning in this, with the protagonist having LSD-like visions from the wine flavors. He is on a quest to find twelve wines that are described by comparing their flavors to Jesus' apostles. (The top panel of this page of Kami no Shizuku might make a good page image, if it can be made to fit without making the text unreadable.)

Film
  • Miles, the protagonist of the film Sideways is a wine enthusiast who often uses metaphors like these.
  • The French movie L'aile ou la Cuisse uses this when the main character has been challenged to prove his culinary expertise by identifying a wine on TV. Unbeknownst to the audience (but not to the bad guy), he has lost his sense of taste, and must rely on other descriptors like color, transparency and viscosity to pull it off, spouting all the usual phrases.

Literature
  • In the Roald Dahl story "Taste", the villain does this as part of a drawn-out display of identifying a wine. Earlier in the story, it is noted that this is an idiosyncrasy of his:
    . . . when discussing a wine, he had a curious, rather droll habit of referring to it as though it were a living being. "A prudent wine," he would say, "rather diffident and evasive, but quite prudent." Or, "A good-humoured wine, benevolent and cheerful — slightly obscene, perhaps, but none the less good-humoured."
  • Dave Barry has mocked this a few times. In particular, he attended a wine steward competition, as described in this column.
    The people at my table, on the other hand, leaned more toward the slosh- and-sniff approach, where you don't so much drink the wine as you frown and make a thoughtful remark about it such as you might make about a job applicant ("I find it ambitious, but somewhat strident." Or: "It's lucid, yes, but almost Episcopalian in its predictability.") As it happened, I was sitting next to a French person named Mary, and I asked her if people in France carry on this way about wine. "No, " she said, "they just drink it. They're more used to it."

Live-Action Television
  • Go On: Ryan enjoys going to wine country and trolling the wine connoisseurs by picking a theme with which to discuss the wine. In the one episode we see it, he describes wine using the names of dwarfs.
  • Also, note the sheer number of Frasier episodes where Frasier and Niles talk wine — the episodes where they are competing against each other in tasting competitions, for instance.
  • Oz And James has this a lot. James however, is learning how to do this.
  • In an infamous lost sketch from Monty Pythons Flying Circus a man brings his friend down to his wine cellar for a private tasting. After the visitor describes the various flavors and textures he notices, the man tells him it's "wee-wee." All the wine is wee-wee.
  • Blackadder II: After sailing around the Cape of Good Horn Blackadder returns to the Queen, who insists that he give her, Melchett and Sir Walter Raleigh gifts from his trip or she'll chop his head off. Thinking quickly, he produces a bottle of Baldrick's urine (the group had been forced to drink their own urine to keep from dying of thirst) for Melchett & Sir Walter. Sir Walter describes it having "plenty of nose" and Melchett says it smells "familiar."
  • An episode of CSI New York is based around the premise that some rare wine has been expertly faked (that is, cheap wine has been carefully flavoured by an expert so it tastes like rare vintages). This trope happens a lot (mostly played for laughs, although the actual experts get some respect).
  • A segment of James Mays Man Lab had them trying to establish if it was possible for someone to bluff their way through this trope at a wine tasting (it wasn't).
  • The Office (US): In the episode "Pool Party", Oscar mistakenly thinks Toby is a wine connoisseur. Toby tries to keep up the charade:
    Oscar: What's compelling about this is the note of persimmon. Right?
    Toby: Note? It's...a symphony.

Podcasts
  • From the Thrilling Adventure Hour episode "A Beyond Belief Valentines Day":
    Frank Doyle: I seek a wine with structure — and stability — and backbone. Something brooding, but which won't tell me what's on its mind. A wine that's superior, haughty, withholding. I want a wine so fickle and baffling I'll wake up at three in the morning with my fingers already fumbling on the dial of my phone to ask it what I've done wrong. I want a wine that disapproves of me and every choice I've made. Bring me a wine that insults me to my face and makes me like it!
    Maitre d': Ah! A French wine, then.

Print Media
  • One of the better-known examples is this James Thurber cartoon: "It's a na´ve domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption."

Web Original
  • The Silly Tasting Notes Generator produces a short random instance of the style, in "Normal-silly" or "Extra-silly" flavors. The template is derived from actual Wine Spectator notes.
  • This blog post by fantasy author/commentator Brian Stavely talks about descriptors of wine that don't really match up with any perception by the senses of the drinker — its used as a metaphor for fantasy novels doing the same with language (i.e. saying a character is "dumb as a smeerp" has no real meaning for the audience, since smeerps don't exist).

Real Life

Rolling Updates.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • July 27, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Weblinks Are Not Examples so you need to add a description to those Print Media and Web Original examples in order to avoid Zero Context Examples.
  • July 29, 2013
    nitrokitty
    As someone who knows people in the wine community, it is very important to note that the terms used to describe wine flavors, like "black cherry", or "plum", does not necessarily mean that the wine tastes like those things, but that it has flavors where those terms are the best approximation that they can articulate. This is one of the concepts that novice oenophiles have trouble with at first, since a wine that everyone describes as tasting like "black cherry" may not taste much like cherries, but rather is merely being described using a pre-agreed upon term.

    See also Wine Is Classy.
  • July 29, 2013
    Frank75
  • July 29, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Go On: Ryan enjoys going to wine country and trolling the wine conneusiers[sp] be picking a theme with which to discuss the wine. In the one episode we see it, he describes wine using the names of dwarfs.
  • July 29, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^^ Sigh... like I said in the very first post on this page, Web Links Are Not Examples.
  • July 29, 2013
    Hodor
    The fantasy author/commentator Brian Stavely refers to such wine snobbery in this essay- basically, it talks about how wine snobbery uses descriptors of wine that don't really match up with any perception by the senses of the drinker- its used as a metaphor for fantasy novels doing the same with language (i.e. saying a character is "dumb as a smeerp" has no real meaning for the audience, since smeerps don't exist).
  • July 29, 2013
    AgProv
    real Life: TV wine pundit Jilly Goolden was the master (mistress?) of this art - she either described wines to a high degree of fluency and vinocultured literacy, or else she spoke a lot of utter bollocks about plonk. i will search for you-tube examples of her flowery speech.[1]

    Also, note the sheer number of Frasier episodes where Frasier and niles talk wine - the episodes where they are competing against each other in tasting competitions, for instance.
  • July 29, 2013
    Weaver
    There was an advert for Gordon's Gin in the UK where a very pretentious guy at a garden party was going on about a glass of wine having aromas of things like wood pigeon and pebbles in the rain and being mocked by two nearby gin and tonic drinkers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yr5CIkVl6T4
  • July 30, 2013
    MasoTey
    Come to think of it, it seems like there's another version of what might be called Hollywood Wine Tasting, distinct from what I was trying to describe in the main writeup: wine tasting as a contest of knowledge, in which a person blind-tastes a wine and attempts to specifially identify it. (Not being a Wine Person, I have no idea to what extent this is Truth In Television.)

    Below are a few examples of this copied in from Wine Is Classy, and from the sound of it the Roald Dahl story already mentioned is an example as well. Is this phenomenon closely enough related to be listed under the same heading?

    • One of the characters in the second One Piece Non Serial Movie, The Fourteenth Target, is an expert sommelier who is able to identify the exact vintage of wine by its sight, smell, and taste. It turns out the sommelier is the culprit, and is in part taking revenge for an accident that robbed him of his sense of taste.
    • In the 'Black Cat' segment of Roger Corman's Poe's Tales of Terror, Vincent Price plays a cultured oeinophile who gets into an identifying contest with slobbish drunkard Peter Lorre. Price swirls, smells, swishes a taste in his mouth while inhaling -- Lorre guzzles back the entire glass, and matches Price glass by glass.
    • In the short story "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste", Lord Peter Wimsey goes undercover as Death Bredon and has his palate tested at a blind tasting; he has to name the producer and vintage (year of production) for a series of wines, some of them quite obscure.
  • August 1, 2013
    MasoTey
    Bump.
  • August 2, 2013
    NateTheGreat
    Dave Barry has mocked this a few times. In particular, he attended a wine steward competition, as described in this column.

    The people at my table, on the other hand, leaned more toward the slosh- and-sniff approach, where you don't so much drink the wine as you frown and make a thoughtful remark about it such as you might make about a job applicant ("I find it ambitious, but somewhat strident." Or: "It's lucid, yes, but almost Episcopalian in its predictability.") As it happened, I was sitting next to a French person named Mary, and I asked her if people in France carry on this way about wine. "No, " she said, "they just drink it. They're more used to it."

  • August 2, 2013
    Frank75
    @Paradisesnake: I only read the German translation of the story, so I can't reproduce the flowery language here. But it was there, trust me.
  • August 2, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Umm, what? How you came across the example or if it fits this trope is irrelevant. Either you add a context for it or I will remove it immediately after launch. It's this wiki's policy, it's as simple as that.
  • August 2, 2013
    Snicka
    Miles, the protagonist of the film Sideways is a wine enthusiast who often uses metaphors like these.
  • August 2, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    You might add that wine is complex (often several flavour notes will be in the same one, and the combinations can sound discordant, like black cherry/pepper/tobacco) and volatile (the lingering taste in the drinker's mouth, called the "finish", can be different than the initial sensations).

    Also, if memory serves, in the short story "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste", Lord Peter has to prove his identity by way of that blind tasting-cum-meal (Lord Peter is famous for his discriminating palate), and he has two competitors. Something about a French aristocrat who invented some military technology the British Foreign Office wanted to buy, and the Frenchman had three men arrive all claiming to be Wimsey, whom he was expecting to come and negotiate over the terms of sale.
  • August 2, 2013
    DracMonster
  • August 2, 2013
    spacemarine50
    Oz And James has this a lot. James however, is learning how to do this.
  • August 2, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • In an infamous lost sketch from Monty Pythons Flying Circus a man brings his friend down to his wine cellar for a private tasting. After the visitor describes the various flavors and textures he notices, the man tells him it's "wee-wee." All the wine is wee-wee.
    • Blackadder II: After sailing around the Cape of Good Horn Blackadder returns to the Queen, who insists that he give her, Melchett and Sir Walter Raleigh gifts from his trip or she'll chop his head off. Thinking quickly, he produces a bottle of Baldrick's urine (the group had been forced to drink their own urine to keep from dying of thirst) for Melchett & Sir Walter. Sir Walter describes it having "plenty of nose" and Melchett says it smells "familiar."
  • August 9, 2013
    DracMonster
    The top panel of this page of Kami no Shizuku might make a good image, if it can be made to fit without making the text unreadable.
  • August 9, 2013
    Bisected8
    • An episode of CSI New York is based around the premise that some rare wine has been expertly faked (that is, cheap wine has been carefully flavoured by an expert so it tastes like rare vintages). This happens a lot (mostly played for laughs, although the actual experts get some respect).

    • A segment of James Mays Man Lab had them trying to establish if it was possible for someone to bluff their way through this trope at a wine tasting (it wasn't).
  • November 26, 2013
    MasoTey
    Bump.
  • November 26, 2013
    WolfgangAmadeusPhoenix
    Name suggestions: Lingua Vinum, Wine Talk, Wino Lingo. Wine Is Classy. Latin is classy.
  • November 26, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    I think that this is ether a subtrope of Purple Prose or that you need to add Purple Prose to the list at the top of the page.

    Also for then name, I'm seconding Lingua Vinum. Speaking of which, In Vino Veritas is already taken.
  • November 27, 2013
    aurora369
    Wino Lingo sounds like bum argot.
  • December 1, 2013
    Bisected8
    Another vote for Lingua Vinum (with Wine Talk as a redirect for ease of searching).
  • December 3, 2013
    MonaNaito
    • The Office (US): In the episode "Pool Party", Oscar mistakenly thinks Toby is a wine connoisseur. Toby tries to keep up the charade:
      Oscar: What's compelling about this is the note of persimmon. Right?
      Toby: Note? It's...a symphony.
  • December 3, 2013
    arbiter099
    I like the current name just fine
  • December 4, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    I think someone should take another look on that second bullet under Anime and Manga...

    EDIT: Namespaced an example.
  • December 4, 2013
    reub2000
    The CSI example should have a pothole to Expensive Glass Of Crap.
  • December 4, 2013
    Chabal2
    The French movie L'aile ou la Cuisse uses this when the main character has been challenged to prove his culinary expertise by identifying a wine on TV. Unbeknownst to the audience (but to the bad guy), he has lost his sense of taste, and must rely on other descriptors like color, transparency and viscosity to pull it off, spouting all the usual phrases.
  • December 8, 2013
    pyroclastic
    I don't think a Latin name makes much sense here. The Romans drank wine, but they weren't particularly snooty about it. If any language is associated with wine pretension, it's French. How about "Sommelier Speak"?

  • December 8, 2013
    arbiter099
    ^Clear Concise Witty, If you're Bob random troper and you happen onto that name with total zip foreknowledge, what does it say to you?
  • December 8, 2013
    pyroclastic
    If you know what a sommelier is (and if you drink wine at all, you probably do), it's pretty obvious. The existing name is fine (much better than something in Latin), but it's not witty at all.
  • December 8, 2013
    DAN004
    Does it even have to be witty?
  • December 9, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ No it doesn't. Clear Concise Witty is always applied in that order, meaning that witty is the least essential quality for a title to have.
  • December 9, 2013
    MasoTey
    I suppose "Vinacular" is right out?
  • January 30, 2014
    MasoTey
    Eah, just remembered about this. I'd like to get it it launched and done with, so any last thoughts/votes on the name? I'm personally leaning toward Sommelier Speak, with Wine Talk as an easier-to-spell redirect.
  • January 30, 2014
    DracMonster
    ^^I actually like that, but it also sounds like alcoholic binoculars.

    Bubbly Grandiloquence? (Just spent some time on thesaurus.com, heh.)

    Cocktail Of Metaphors
  • January 30, 2014
    DAN004
    Who's gonna make a crowner?
  • January 31, 2014
    dalek955
    One thing I always wanted to do was describe a wine as "brisant" in front of an actual wine expert to see if they notice. If only I liked wine...

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