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Apr 27, 2007 08:38 PM

i'm a better writer than oenophile

Can anyone help me out? Thanks...

I'm writing a story, part of it takes place on a wine tasting trip, and one of the characters is totally ignorant about wine. So, if she were to describe a california chardonnay as flowery, would that in general be an inaccurate description? Or, what could she say that would be just plain wrong?

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  1. Not in today's market. So many of the really popular chardonnays have changed their flavor profile to be flowery, almost sweet.

    1. is she being portrayed as just a newbie or a know-it-all who actually knows nothing?

      things i've heard from guests about wine that are impossible, or at least implausible:

      i like buttery, but really dry

      i like really oaky, but light

      i like dry, but kind of sweet

      this is tannic (when it's white)

      i like white pinot noir. do you have that?

      i thought cabernet sauvignon was white?

      i'll have the mare-lott

      younger wines are always better than older wines

      french/italian/spanish (insert country here) wines are just awful

      white wine has no calories, just like water

      chardonnay is best ice cold

      i only drink wine over ice

      9 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Interesting and entertaining list of phrases. This could be thread on its own!

        Thanks for sharing,

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          please tell me that these are the products of your own sense of humor and did not actually occur!

          1. re: ibstatguy

            all are true quotes, lol.

            last night i had a guy ask for white chianti, and when i said that didn't exist, he then asked for a very dry white beaujolais. i wanted to poke out my own eye with my wine key. i have no idea what planet he was from. he wound up drinking a dr. loosen riesling which is off-dry. he seemed to like it.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              i can't make one up to match the real ones!

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Though your client doesn't sound like someone in the know, white Beaujolais does exist. Jean-Paul Brun's Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc is not only a great Chardonnay but a fine bargain to boot. White PN is made, too. Some New World producers vinify PN into a vin gris-type "white" wine (J. K. Carriere's Glass from the Willamette Valley, for example). More exalted and even rarer is the Nuits-St-Georges made from white PN grapes by Henri Gouges (and maybe others); the vines were cloned from a single shoot of a PN vine that mutated (in the 1940s, IIRC) and produced white grapes.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Along those lines (White Chianti), the story goes that a sommelier presented the wine list to the host of the meal. He promptly chose a specific Puligny-Montrachet, and began loudly extolling the virtues of this wine. When presented, he waved an OK, and was taken back, when it was poured. "All Burgundies are RED!," he proclaimed to his table and the entire restaurant.

                  I still get a few whispered, "you know that this isn't white... ?" when ordering Zins. I usually nod and do not "extol" to the server.


              2. re: hotoynoodle

                I'm an editor (seriously!) and know a little about wine. Take it from character's desire to sound smart about wine (it's flowery) that you're going for the dimwit know-it-all angle. "Flowery" is a word a knowledgable person might use (actually, probably "floral," but close enough). Noodle's list is great-- the ones that would best fit your context would be "too much tannin" (for a white, accompanied by sour face) or "it's oaky, but light."

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  My personal favorite quote was overheard years ago at THE FEDERALIST (123 page wine list).

                  Really new-money/tacky Texas couple looking over the Bordeaux selections, the wife says to the husband:

                  "Remember when we had that 1953 Chateaubriand, honey?"

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Just had a lady last night ask me for a "REALLY buttery, slightly oaky, dry chardonnay"...I brought her the house white wine, she was none the wiser.

                  2. Interesting question.

                    I think the answer depends on the personality of the character speaking.
                    You say she is ignorant about wine. Is she knowledgeble about other things? Is her nature
                    at all sensual or not so much? As a character, does she talk much -- is she loquacious or given to flowery language? Does she claim knowledge she doesn't have? Does she generally put her foot in her mouth?

                    All will color the answer to give to you. In the scene with the chardonnay, you are using her wine description to say something about her character. What is it?

                    Could you use a different, not so recognizable wine type to make the same point? Might make for more interesting reading, but that's just a thought and certainly an author decision.

                    Finally, in answer to your question, most chardonnays are not described as flowery. Generally the descriptors used to describe California chards are apples, green apples, pears, roasted pears, pineapple, buttery, butterscotch, vanilla, round, a hint of citrus, a hint of spice and...oaky and smoky (the bad ones). White burgundies (also the chard grape) are a different ball game. If you want to use a wine that could be described as flowery, there are several. Let us know.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      also consider the audience. while it grates me to read food and wine mistakes anyplace (whether fiction or wiki), few readers will know up from down.

                    2. CA Chardonnay can be flowery, although hat isn't how I generally think of it. As hotoynoodle said, I think juxtaposition is your best way to go here. Putting ice in the wine is also classic -- in the sense that I've seen people do it and I just cannot fathom how or why. If you want flavors that CA Chardonnay is exceptionally unlikely to have- cassis, blueberry, or almost any other dark berry, tar, beef blood, steak tartare, tobacco would all be incredibly unlikely.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: whiner

                        I confess! I sometimes put ice in white wine. When I am at a freinds home and she bought this "amazing" WHITE wine, that isn't amazing at all. In fact it is overaoked and off balance. I will add ice to make it so cold, I can't taste the flaws. Thus ensuring, I don't make that face that says gosh this wine is awful everytime I take a sip and my friend's feelings aren't hurt.

                        1. re: chickstein

                          Italians put ice in their white wine frequently.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            to answer the questions about who she is/what the situation is, the wine-ignorant character is a chef, as is her wine-savvy friend. while i'm sure they've both had some degree of wine training in their path, she really never drinks wine.

                            they're wine tasting, and the savvy one is trying to get her friend to taste/describe the wine. as written, currently:

                            . I held tight to Rachel’s arm as she showed me how to swirl the glass on the table, how to inhale the wine’s bouquet.
                            What Do You Taste? she asked.
                            I Haven’t Gotten Past Smelling It, I pointed out.
                            Still, Tell Me What It Tastes Like. Cmon, Chef.
                            I Dunno, Flowers?
                            Floral, Larch. Not Flowers.

                            1. re: linz

                              actually, smelling the wine is something to pay a lot of attention to. the nose can detect far more aromas than the palate can flavors.

                              is the floral quality of the wine important to the narrative? other aromas are more typical of california chardonnay: green apple, pear, peach, tropical fruits, lemon, oak, vanilla...

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                no, a floral or not-floral quality isn't important to the narrative, what's important is that the character gets it wrong.