Thursday 7 November 2013

Terms of Reference - M & S Côtes du Rhône

So the International Federation of Wine Critics has just finished its deliberations over which terms are to be internationally approved when it comes to written wine appreciation, and which are on the way out: and their recommendations (in the forthcoming Oenophile Glossary) make fascinating reading for anyone interested in wine and wine writing.

This year, in an effort to drag wine criticism firmly into the twenty-first century, there's an emphasis on modern technology and the contemporary arts. Thus, we find among the new verbal inclusions, Tipping point, Bruschetta tendencies, Aspect ratio, Ringtone, Undercoat, Mosh pit and Kiera Knightley - this last to denote a wine, usually white, which looks fantastic in the bottle but turns out to be a bit on the thin side. Among the terms being phased out, or deprecated, to use the software developer's jargon, are Woody, Chewy, Jammy and, thank God, Minerality. Debate still rages over the proposed replacement of Structure by Armature: both are currently permissible, although I have my doubts that Armature will prove sufficiently of the now to gain traction. I expect it to be replaced in the near future either by Strategy or Floorplan, but we shall see.

Peach will be phased out completely by 2015, to be replaced by New car smell; while Gooseberry will make way for Romanian persimmon - a relief to all of us who have no idea what a gooseberry actually tastes like; while Raspberry, plum, blackcurrant and, indeed, all other soft fruits will be harmonised into the single term Melbury for the sake of clarity and simplicity. In a couple of nods to Hollywood, Blood pack will be used to denote any of those repulsive 15% or more Californian reds, while Russell Crowe will be used for all other heavy-hitting New World wines, including Australian Shiraz and Argentinian Malbec. Angular is both in and out, while further talks are being held on the future of Robust. At the same time, a working party is looking into Interface, Mellow, Chupa Chups, Personality and Narrative-driven, and will report early in the new year.

What else are we saying goodbye to? Well, Velvety has the executioner's axe hanging over it, as does Finesse. Assuming they're both fully decommissioned by 2016, expect to see Build quality step in, as a stimulant to what will by then be a declining Chinese market. And get used to living without that old favourite, Approachable. This will be broken up into three new categories: Nice, Businesslike and Sexy.

It's a lot to take in, but in a mood of experimentation I decided to try out some of the new vocabulary on a bottle of M & S Côtes du Rhône (£5.79), to see how it feels in practice. Nice bottle, by the way, heritage label and a cork for sheer class, enough even for PK, but after that? Not much in the way of a ringtone, some Melbury™ notes, but then a pretty short, low-tannins, narrative arc, ending in a quick mosh pit of acidity. Yes, a couple of weeks ago I was at a tasting of some 2011 Bordeaux which ran the gamut from fence paint to Aubusson tapestry (the Lynch Bages I would have taken home there and then), so the old CDR suffers in comparison when similarly stress-tested, and anyway what do I expect for just over a fiver? It's a Kiera Knightley, as it turns out, with very much a 4:3 aspect ratio, but it passes the time.

A strange feeling, doing without the soft fruits and the Approachable. And one reaches instinctively for the tannins, whether one needs to or not. But overall, I like the way things are going. It's fresh, it's distinctive, it's nicely demotic. Yes, a part of me hankers after Finesse and Blackcurrant - but then a part of me still hankers after that elegant diction my late Father used to employ when talking about wine: good old Edwardian terms such as chétif, gusto, blancmange, gutta-percha and inner sensorium. Still. We must move on and embrace the future: autres temps, autres mœurs.


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