Playing Wine Bullshit Bingo…………………….

As a wine drinker for over 40 years I have long-held the view that most critics utter a load of bullshit in their descriptions of wine. Here are just a few of the hackneyed terms that wine critics love to spout:-


An angular wine is like putting a triangle in your mouth – it hits you in specific places with high impact and not elsewhere. It’s like getting punched in the arm in the same place over and over again. An angular wine also has high acidity.
This is a very unfriendly wine. It hits your mouth and then turns it inside out. It usually means the wine has very high acidity and very little fruit flavors. An austere wine is not fruit-forward nor opulent.
This means the wine smells like poo. It’s never used anymore describing a wine, unless the wine writer is attempting to dig that wine an early grave.
A wine with buttery characteristics has been aged in oak and generally is rich and flat (less Acidity). A buttery wine often has a cream-like texture that hits the middle of your tongue almost like oil (or butter) and has a smooth finish.
A wine that is described as tasting like charcoal tastes gritty, it’s usually dry (with higher tannins) and has this rustic flavor. Charcoal is often associated with a similar characteristic: pencil lead (but less refined).
When you take a sip of wine with chewy tannins, it dries out the interior of your mouth so that you “chew” or clean the tannins out of the insides of your mouth.
Cigar box flavors are hinting toward sweetness and cedar-wood with an abundance of smoke. This is a super positive and desirable characteristic that wine writers love to use when they find a wine they wish they could just slowly sip on a leather chair.
A complex wine simply means that when you taste it, the flavor changes from the moment you taste it to the moment you swallow. As much as I love complex wines, using the word “complex” to describe a wine is a cop-out unless you go on to describe how it’s complex.
The word Crisp with wine is more often used to describe a white wine. A crisp wine is most likely simple but goes really well with a porch swing on a hot day.
When a wine writer pairs down his lengthy description of flavors and characteristics of a wine into one word, he uses dense. Dense is favored for use in bold red wines such as cabernet sauvignon, Côtes du Rhône and Brunello di Montalcino but usually isn’t a positive characteristic in other wines because it implies that wine is handicapped.
A classic go-to move for a wine writer trying to describe that awkward green and unpleasant finish on a wine. They don’t want to hate on the wine, they just want you to know that if you don’t like the wine it means you don’t like earthy and you’re a bad person.
When a wine writer says elegant he means that the wine is NOT big, NOT fruity, NOT opulent and NOT bold. Off-vintages are often referred to as elegant vintages as they have higher acid and tend to have more ‘green’ characteristics. Elegant wines may taste like crap when they first release but they also tend to age better. Elegant is that retired ballerina who puts the fat-n-sassy retired cheerleaders to shame.
Wide, Big, Massive, Opulent: These are all similar synonyms of fat. Turns out fat is the least desirable of all of them because it’s flabby. A fat wine comes in and takes up all the room in your mouth and hangs in awkward places.
Flabby means the wine has no acidity. It’s a negative connotation so don’t say it to a wine maker! They will spear you with their forklift.
A flamboyant wine is trying to get your attention with an abundance of fruit. The writer picks up on this and calls it out. No joke.
Imagine the iron-laden sensation of having a piece of raw steak in your mouth that is fleshy.
This is a rare but special occurring term used by one of the most famous wine critics, Robert Parker. Robert Parker is sure that if you are not satisfied by this wine on a hedonistic and intellectual level then you don’t deserve to drink it. This is probably true, because these words are reserved for the wines we can’t afford anyway…sadface.
Sommeliers and wine experts cringe when they hear this term while the rest of us delight. Jam is delicious and it is part of the PB&J experience. In wine, jammy indicates a wine with a cooked berry sweetness that is syrupy and often is used to describe American wines like zinfandel, grenache, cabernet franc and Australian shiraz…don’t be a hater.
Another one of Robert Parker’s idioms that I can help mentioning. pew! pew! GO TO DENSE
Refined is a subset of elegant wines. This term is often used while describing tannins in a wine. These wines have the “less is more” ideology about them. GO TO ELEGANT
Silky is the red-wine equivalent word to creamy with white wines. If you like silky for bed sheets than you will most likely enjoy silky on your tongue. GO TO CREAMY, VELVETY
A steely wine has higher acid and more sharp edges. It is the man-ballerina of wine.
A structured wine has high tannin and acid and is hard to drink. People say “stuctured” because they think that if you give the wine a few years, it’ll soften up and be yummy. GO TO AUSTERE
This wine is not ready to drink. When I taste a tight wine it usually has very high tannins, hard-to-identify fruit characteristics and is hard-to-drink. This wine could benefit from being decanted .
Toasty is most commonly a reference to a wine that’s oak-aged in Medium Plus Toasted Oak. It doesn’t actually taste like toast (sorry to disappoint) it’s more like slightly burnt caramel on the finish.
When a wine is unctuous it is oily.
Whilst doing some research about wines, snobbery and the complete bullshit that surrounds the topic I came across the following:-

In 2007, Richard E Quandt, a Princeton economics professor, published a paper entitled On Wine Bullshit: Some New Software?” The study sought to describe the “unholy union” of “bullshit and bullshit artists who are impelled to comment on it”, in this case wine and wine critics. Quandt compiled a “vocabulary of wine descriptors” containing 123 terms from “angular” to “violets” via other nonsense descriptions such as “fireplace” and “tannins, fine-grained”.

Then, with the help of colleagues, he built an algorithm that generated wine reviews of hypothetical wines using his “vocabulary of bullshit”. For instance: “Château L’Ordure Pomerol, 2004. Fine minerality, dried apricots and cedar characterise this sage-laden wine bursting with black fruit and toasty oak.” He concluded that whether his reviews were “any more bullshit” than real ones was a “judgment call”. Sadly, he didn’t explore how long it would take a monkey to type a wine review.

And as I said to the manager of a wine shop recently “why would I pay £20.00 for a mediocre French wine when I can get an excellent New World wine for half that price?”

French wines have the history and snob value but there have been so many notorious scandals in Bordeaux and Burgundy about wine growers “topping up” their wines with wine from the south of France and even North Africa to give them body and alcohol content. This is always denied of course.

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One Response to Playing Wine Bullshit Bingo…………………….

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