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do it yourself wine review

Back label wine descriptions: What the jumble and winespeak on the back label really means

Back label wine descriptionsBack label wine descriptions can be as confusing as anything written by wine critics

The recent post about wine critics and their almost indecipherable wine descriptions reminded me that they aren’t the only ones whose goal is confusion and obfuscation. We also have back label wine descriptions for that.

In fact, back label wine descriptions may be more annoying, since their job is to help sell the wine. Who wants to buy a wine where the back label promises something that isn’t there? I’m not the only one flustered by this; a marketing official for one of the largest wine companies in the world told me it bothers good marketers, too. But many of the biggest producers contract the back label writing to third parties, so they’re stuck with what they get.

The other annoying thing? Yes, many of the worst examples come from cheap wine, but many also come from wine costing as much as $25. And what does that say about the $25 wine?

The following are taken from actual back label wine descriptions, with my explanation of what they really mean:

• Silky mouth feel: “We’ve removed the acidity and tannins and added sugar to cover up anything remotely resembling either, just in case any is still in the wine.”

• Unusual fruits like lychee nut and guava: Most wine drinkers probably haven’t tasted those, so the description does two things – first, shows that even a $6 bottle of wine can be exotic. Second, that the wine is deep and complex, even when it only costs $6. So shut up and buy it already. But then there is the other side of the descriptor.

• An alluring hint. … : “The flavor isn’t actually there, but if we suggest it, you’ll probably taste it and think the wine is better than it is.”

• Robust, with intense, dark fruits: “We’ve added as much Mega Purple as humanly possible.”

• A mocha finish with lingering oak: Regular readers here know what that is without any help from me – scorching amounts of fake oak, and then even more. And maybe even a little bit more just to be on the safe side.

• Freshly picked peaches (or apricots or even red fruit like cherries): “You’re damn right it’s sweet. But we’re not going to say that, are we?”

• A long, stony finish: “We couldn’t get rid of that odd, bitter taste in the wine, and we didn’t want to add any more sugar. So we want you to think that the bitterness is a good thing.”

Silly wine descriptions

Why didn’t you say so? What those silly wine descriptions really mean

Silly wine descriptions

Look closely, and you can see the gentian and the buddleia.

Those silly wine descriptions weren’t really about wine, but Star Wars and Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Last week’s post about silly wine descriptions, courtesy of John Tilson at the Underground Wine Letter, elicited any number of comments – some of which I can actually reproduce here.

Tilson found three truly silly wine reviews, one of which included this line: “texturally silken, supremely elegant effort transparently and kaleidoscopically combines moss, wet stone, gentian, buddleia, coriander, pepper, piquant yet rich nut oils and a saline clam broth savor. …”

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought it was a bit excessive. My email offered a variety of interpretations, and I followed those up with several other possible explanations:

• “Wasn’t Buddleia the hero of the Gentian Sector in the second Star Wars prequel?” asked Dave McIntyre, the Washington Post wine critic.

• Because I’m a Star Trek fan: Wasn’t saline clam broth savor something like gagh, one of the Klingon dishes that Riker enjoyed in The Next Generation episode, “A Matter of Honor”?

• Or perhaps it was this diner’s favorite nibble in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life?

• Women’s makeup similar to the $1,115 Guerlain Black Orchid, only made with moss, wet stone, coriander, pepper, and piquant yet rich nut oils, instead of the “sensoriality and efficacy” that is the “strength and power of the Black Orchid?”

• The texturally silken and kaleidoscopically weed-infused of plot of 1993’s “Dazed and Confused?”

• And, from the Italian Wine Guy, whose education was obviously much more classical: “ In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ a stately pleasure dome decree:/ Where Alph, the sacred river, ran/ Through caverns measureless to man/ Down to a sunless sea of gentian, buddleia and moss. …”

Winebits 533: Silly wine descriptions, nutrition labels, and organic wine

Silly wine descriptions This week’s wine news: Silly wine descriptions that are so silly even I don’t believe them, plus the EU takes on nutrition labels and the sad state of organic wine

No sense at all: John Tilson at the Underground Wine Letter has found three silly wine descriptions that prove, again, how little the Winestream Media writes for the average wine drinker. Or for anyone who cares about English. Click on the link and read all three; this, part of one of them, will give you a hint of what’s in store: “texturally silken, supremely elegant effort transparently and kaleidoscopically combines moss, wet stone, gentian, buddleia, coriander, pepper, piquant yet rich nut oils and a saline clam broth savor. …” Know that I am a professional writer who has been paid to do this since I was 15 and have won numerous writing awards, and I have never seen the word gentian. Let alone used it. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Nutrition labels: EU wine producers, as well as beer and spirits makers, will make more nutritional and ingredients information available to consumers, including calorie information for wine, reports Decanter magazine. It’s part of a requirement by the EU that producers improve nutrition and ingredients information for consumers. The story notes there is disagreement between the industry and some public health officials as to whether the information is enough, but it still puts the EU decades ahead of the U.S. Here, nutrition labeling is optional, and most producers don’t do it because they think it will scare or confuse consumers.

No to organic: The U.S. is fourth worst in organic vineyards among major global wine grape growers, reports the Wine Industry Insight website. Just 2.7 percent of U.S. vineyards are organic, compared to industry leader Italy’s 15.5 percent. That’s especially intriguing given the value and popularity of the rest of the U.S. organic industry, which accounts for more than five percent of U.S. food sales.