The Poetry of the Wine Review


wineandpoetryWhat’s wrong with a little poetry with your wine review; a little metaphor in your wine rating?

Hopefully, nothing.

Is there any form of product review or critique of art that comes closer to poetry than the traditional wine review. I don’t think so. And I was struck by this revelation (one that should have occurred to me long ago) yesterday while listening to an interview with and TED Talk by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins in which “the creative process” was the primary topic.

Collins doesn’t speak directly to it, but poetry, as well as prose, hinges on the very difficult to pin down idea of “inspiration”, a commodity that can come and go, be found in nearly any situation and is linked directly to an artist or writer’s frame of mind.

The wine review as it is traditionally written today tends to be around 75 to 100 words. The wine review is inspired by the reviewer’s frame of mind and, importantly, by the wine upon which they are focusing their attention. But more importantly, consider the kind of prose that result from this process:

Awesome aromatics
Quintessential elegance married
Unbridled density of fruit,
Flawless and seamless concoction
Full-bodied power
Elegance and purity.

This is a Robert Parker review of the 2010 Chateau La Violette. I’ve removed a few words and re-organized the review into what would be a familiar poetic construction. Why is this not poetry? Why do the metaphors and the lavish and pointed description not qualify as poetry?

Interestingly, this review of the 2010 La Violette was also a point of criticism of Mr. Parker by Geordie Clarke at 12× in which it is noted that “Parker has a habit of writing in confusing language full of metaphors and platitudes.”

Now, I’d argue that anyone who is confused by this description of the 2010 La Violette probably ought to back away for a moment and ask just how literal a subjective description of wine needs to be in order for it to appropriately reflect the impression it left on a drinker. But this is beside the point.

The criticisms of wine reviews, with their metaphors, platitudes and confusing language has never struck me as altogether legitimate or meaningful. A review of wine is merely one person’s impression and impression can be expressed in so many ways. Why not poetic?

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