April 09, 2004

Just a trace of the obligatory rubber

The "full connoisseur's report" from Zackary Sholem Berger:

Vintage 5764 from the Chateau d'Mullen is the result of firm, fresh fruit. The bouquet is startlingly arresting. With a beguilingly titanium core, the aroma is pugilistic. Devastatingly acidic aroma. Sensations of battery acid give way to a nuclear confiture in the mouth; ripe and full. Accents of earth, fire and arsenic followed by a crippling finish.

This is about horseradish, needless to say. Oenophile language from a raphanophile.

Berger's references to titanium and battery acid are somewhat less satirical than you might think. For instance, this is a completely sincere way to praise a Riesling: "Divine subtle nose with citrus, a hint of petrol, some tree fruit, and just a trace of the obligatory rubber." Google finds 159 pages containing "hint of petrol", many if not most on American oenophile sites. There are only 53 ghits for "hint of gasoline", and many of these are non-oenophilic: "If you smell any hint of gasoline while driving, stop the vehicle." Petrol is so much more refined than gasoline, dontcha know. There is also the effect of translation from the traditional French gout de pétrole -- "taste of gasoline" would be shocking, and the cognate "petrol" softens it a bit -- but the snob factor is surely also important.

I'm reminded of the audiophile LP I once bought which boasted of being pressed on "the finest European vinyl." And I thought us Americans were good at plastic, at least...

Here's some more discussion of fancy food phrases, including "tasting flight" and "hint of earth in the nose".

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 9, 2004 11:53 AM