(Note that the first word in the trope name is pronounced "suhm-uh-lyay".)
Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine.
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, sometimes even incorporating Faux Symbolism to give more gravitas to the wine tasting.
- 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. Basically, wine critics are wrestling with the same problem as the makers of perfume commercials
, i.e. attempting to describe the characteristics of something in a medium ill-suited for the job (see also It Tastes Like Feet
for the Evil Twin
to this.) Not surprisingly, the end results are similar
See also Wine Is Classy
Anime and Manga
- 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.
- A commercial plays on this, with an older Italian man and his assistant tapping a cask. The man holds the glass up to the light, "Muddy." He takes a sniff, "Pungent." He takes a sip and immediately spits it out, "Sour." Then he smiles and says, "It's Perfect." The narrator then lets the audience know this is a commercial for Balsamic vinegar. (Yes, they do do this. The standards for aceto balsamico tradizionale—the Real Thing when it comes to balsamic vinegar—are extremely exacting, and even the higher-end stuff among the non-tradizionale is treated with care and tasted for grading purposes before distribution.)
- 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.
- Subverted in One Piece where Marine Lieutenant Fullbody has a restaurant deliver a specific kind of wine to him and his date so he can impress her by pretending to identify it in this manner. Unfortunately for him, his waiter happens to be Sanji, who gives him a completely different wine instead and causes him to humiliate himself.
- 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, when he attended a sommelier competition (as described in this column), he had this to say:
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."
- A Dorothy L. Sayers short story "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste" has three men all claiming to be Lord Peter Wimsey. Who is the real one is determined by a wine taste-off.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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 — it's 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).
- An episode of Bob's Burgers set on a wine-tasting train-ride had Bob and Linda meet a wine connoisseur. Bob hates him for his condescending attitude regarding Bob's tastes, but when Bob challenges him to a wine identifying contest he realizes he's not just blowing smoke. Bob is only able to beat him when Linda brings in a "special" wine that the sommelier never had before but Bob had: the various types of wine that were in one of the train's spittoons.
- The Pinky and the Brain episode "Around the World in 80 Narfs" has a waiter introduce a wine as "An amusing vintage with an excellent nose." "It also seems to have ears and a tail," replies the diner — as Pinky and the Brain have been bottled into the wine.
- TV wine pundit Jilly Goolden mastered 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. Here's an example of her flowery speech, along with a touch of Food Porn.