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OK. Since Wyatt Mason in the NYRB cleverly thwarted both French government censorship and Madame Destouches’ “ban” of her deceased husband “Celine’s” antiSemitic rantings and ravings by doing the translation himself, I will likewise seek to avoid approbation by translating a wine label I encountered today.
“dark cherry color…..red fruit smell….hints of raspberry….flesh (I swear to Bacchus) of plum; structured…..but surrounded by black fruits and a bit of licorice; serve at any temperature” [unstated – not freezing or over boiling].
Now this is on a 20 Euro bottle of Merlot from the D’Oc which we all know has over-produced, over-hyped and over-there’d a lot of inferior wine since it went from making diesel-oil-level plonk to interesting stuff.
Where do they get this verbiage from? Are there really enough desperate journalism graduates or jerk-water vintners or unemployed English majors to pump out or put out this pretentious crap? I mean, what does it tell you?
A few decades ago, Colette and I were on a “forced march” in Latin American with a (mixed = he Spanish-ate, she Bronx-ite) couple that were very well-meaning but talked in banalities that required extra doses of anti-nausea medications. As we were driven (he was my boss and hired cars with drivers) hither and yon one of the two would say to the other, “look at that lawn,” or fence, or mountain, or cow, or, you get the picture – look at what’s staring you in the face.
Then of course there are the museum docents, or worse, curators, like Carter Brown or Philippe de Montebello (both of whose accents were polished through years of elocution training and that grew more and more Brit as they got older and more dotty), who say things like “here Picasso shows how you can take a simple table and render it flat through cubistic creativity.” Ah, duh, ah, what new are you telling me.
Well, these wine label folks tend to go on and on and on, like me sort of, about colors and flavors and textures and hints of this and that and such – I feel like screaming – “let me drink the f****** wine.”
And isn’t that the purpose of wine labels? Shouldn’t they entice you to try it/them? You – I – go into a wine store. We head to the area where the wines we know and like best, be they $250 Bordeaux or $5 Loires, or God forbid Kiwi or Chilean, and how do we buy? After reading that it’s got a “dark cherry color…..red fruit smell….hints of raspberry….flesh of plum; structured…..but surrounded by black fruits and a bit of licorice”?
Come on. We like the label, we trust the store-guy, we buy on impulse, it looks cool, someone mentioned a Corsican or Monterey wine like this – let’s go for it. Am I right?
Wine label writers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your jobs. Drop the hype, the phony phrases, the stuff Marvin Shanken (king of the “Wine Spectator”) made his zillions off. Just render the label informative. This is a 80% blah and 20% bluh and was grown in the boombah region and goes well with everything except vinegar and ice cream which nothing goes well with; drink it young, drink it often if you like it but mostly, drink it for fun. It’s not your final calculus exam.
PS At Global Wines it costs more than it’s worth I’m sure.
These thoughts occurred while I was reading the wine label of a Linge B Merlot from the D’Oc at:
19, Chaussee de la Muette in the 16th, (Metro: La Muette)
Weekday lunch formulas 19-24, others 33-38, a la carte 50-60€
©2009 John A. Talbott
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