- 403 - DefVINitions – Behind the winespeak
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- Few people are aware that Jonathan Swift turned his satirical gaze onto the shenanigans of the wine trade. I
- A MODERN PROPOSAL cont…
- This list renders invalid all previous lists.
- 403 -
DefVINitions – Behind the winespeak
An intriguingly elegant young claret – possibly there’s some fruit here but I can’t detect it
A wine of infinite subtlety – I can’t understand why everyone thinks this wine is so wonderful
This wine would go well with…. – This is what I had to eat last night
Superb with new season’s milk-fed lamb – I have an organic butcher around the corner
Of course Australia is not a country, it’s a continent – despite attempts at regional differentiation it is still all bloody chardonnay, cabernet and shiraz.
Vin du patron – the patron who originally drank this is long dead but we’ve been using this as a substitute for embalming fluid.
This wine is an animal/a massive beast – This wine is so alcoholic you could cauterise open wounds with it
I do not work for a supermarket - I work for a supermarket
Viognier is the new Sauvignon - I meant to do this article last year and I missed the deadline
It's summer again - Time to rehash my "Rosés aren't absolutely disgusting" piece
Watch out France - Supermarkets are doing their year-round six for the price of two Vatted plonks from Chile, Bulgaria etc.
Jacob's Creek is actually not a bad drink - The date is April 1st
A fresh lively champagne at £8.50... - remarkable value even for battery acid
Cult wines – Should be known as Boutique and the Beastly Prices. Revered by wine collectors because of their alleged rarity. Rationing
the wine creates a Pavlovian reaction amongst wealthy buyers whose willingness to be resoundingly ripped off drives the prices into the
empyrean. Prime candidates for those with obese bank accounts include Château Le Pin Number, much-Mooted Grange, and that rarest of
avises, the wine Tim Atkin felicitously calls Screaming Ego (née Eagle).
wear old school ties.
Fizzy – Cava Caveat Emptor
by families of pigeons, rats, bats and other denizens of the wild.
vile blush and the big rich bastard who lives on the hill. DNA fingerprinting suggests that Zinfandel is the same as the artery-hardening-
to-pronounce Crljenak Kastelanski, a little known Croatian grape variety. Whatever. Capable of producing fine wines in the right hands
(Paul Draper, Helen Turley and John Williams), when yields are low, otherwise can be hot and stewed. As Byron almost said, sometimes
zin’s a pleasure. Described by one wine writer as the Harley Davidson of grape varieties, I would say its blush version more closely
resembled the Jim Davidson of grape varieties.
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RON MANAGER’S CELLAR NOTES
Hmmm… vatted Merlot, marvellous… VAT 69, Pope’s phone number, wasn’t it? Sweet plums and chocolate liqueur, always the last one
in the box or is it the coffee cream – offering it to the lady wife with a cheeky grin – marvellous! Here’s a claret. Expensive, mon cher, I
should cocoa. Ah the clarets – West Ham at home, blowing bubbles, blowing games – the Happy Hammers – especially if you’re auctioneer!
The prices, isn’t it, aren’t they – tremendous? Thomas Jefferson, wine collector, cultivated footballer, two Lafite wasn’t it (or was it two
The Englishman’s wine though, n’est ce pas? An Englishman’s home is his château. Château Latour, but where’s the Château Latrine?
Privy, I know thee not, what? Bordeaux, the great port on the Gironde, although nothing to do with port. Don’t ask if you can’t afford it.
The Aussies won’t have an inferiority complex though. Whinging Pomerols! Burgundy’s the thing. Forget the minor varieties – see you
later, Aligote, kir today, gone tomorrow, isn’t it? Ho ho! Meursault and Montrachet, the twin pillars of Chardonnay. Has a ring, like
bedknobs and broomsticks, the sound of music, the sound of Musar… a great Lebanese wine made by er… Lebanese! Or the sound of
Muscat, a grape escape, Julie Andrews fleeing from the Nazis on her motorbike… Or was it the other way around?
Where was I? Great reds, Burgundies, but have they lost their bottle? When is a Nuits a no-no? The label may say Savigny but would you
give your dog a Beaune? Are they cutting crus according their cloth? The Côtes of myriad colours… Should we boycott Gevrey? Ah,
Headingley on a July afternoon with Yorkshire’s finest ambassador glued to the crease, the crowd snoring in unison - abiding image.
The French – they have a different word for everything, don’t they?
Beaujolais nouveau – vieux chapeau, isn’t it? Mmm, third Thursday in November… the race to get back for breakfast and have a good fry
up. Un oeuf is un oeuf. Don’t forget the grilled tomatoes! Carbonic maceration? – I don’t mind what they do as long it doesn’t frighten the
Cono Sur – one for the connoisseur – ho ho – what will the Chileans think of next – they can’t make Pinot in Chile, then again they can’t
make chilli in Pinner!
Spanish wines – are they off their Riojas? Prices soaring like a bull-market. Toro Toro Toro - like Pearl Harbour! Pearls? Before wines?
Ah drying out on mats in the bodegas – and that’s just the workers. Abiding image. El Tel given the Spanish archer (El bow, ho ho) by the
crafty Catalans – they know what they’re doing – Torres, Torres, Torres everywhere you look. Lieutenant Torres, Starship Voyager, half
klingon-half woman, I know which half I would cling on to!
Italy – the cattenachio double guyot system with the sweeper picking up the grapes - enduring image. Chianti-shire, the English playground
of the chattering classes, hampers for goalposts. Oh the vintage of the warmth south, drinking from the wicker flasks… wicker man…
Edward Woodward built like an oak tree burned like one… Barolo… would you give someone your last one…. Just one Dolcetto give it to
me! And what better way to wash down a plate of Spaghetti Carbone or Vitello di Canio than a nice glass of Daniel Verdicchio!
Botrytis cinerea – hardest game in the world! Misty golden autumn afternoons, mellow fruitfulness, smoke on the water, a fire in the sky.
Shrivelled grapes – Ron gets that way in winter (!) - young lads and lasses picking them, purple-stained mouths, filling their baskets with
the poetry of the harvest. Abiding image, isn’t it?
Robert Parker, the advocate, isn’t that a Dutch drink made from lawyers? No he’s the man with the marks - and the dollars - and the yen.
The man with the golden tongue! Incorruptible. The Bordelais want to stick their business up his nose. You can see their point – 100 times
And a letter! Parker Roberts of Boston writes: “Dear Ron, which wine should I drink with oysters? The wife recommends a good Muscadet.”
Ron says: “Have a wine instead!”
The New World… isn’t it? Hop off frogs we can teach you a thing or two, ha ha. A sea of Chardonnay… Chardonnay, Chardonnay
everywhere, nor any drop to drink. The AA... Ancient Mariner wasn’t he? And what have we here? Cat’s Pee in A Gooseberry Bush
Sauvignon – too much for Ron’s sensitive nose – as the Italians say aroma was not built in a day! Not château bottled but bottled eau de
chat, isn’t it hmmm?
South African wine – red or white I’m colour blind. Bongo-bongo chenin though, isn’t it? Better than a kick in the goolies – with a wet
Finally, Ron’s piece of sage advice from the expert’s corner. Remember, when you are using a corkscrew that French and Italian wines are
removed with a clockwise action, while those from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have to be unscrewed anti-clockwise.
Marvellous, isn’t it? Happy drinking!
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The most touchingly resonant images in Mondovino are established at the beginning of the film with shots of
vineyards in Jurançon and Sardinia where growers eke out a precarious existence amongst their vines. As they
talk we realise that theirs is the language of true passion, of personal commitment – having invested their lives in
it these people are as part of the terroir themselves, rooted in the very landscape that surrounds them.
Delightful as these fleeting vignettes are, we are soon disabused of this Arcadian view. Wine, after all, is big
business, and business demands global models and standards regarding the qualitative homogenisation of the
product. At the one end of the market spectrum this manifests itself as the ongoing corporate battle for wealth,
for influence, for prestige, for land. To acquire influence one must play the game: wine is thus made (tweaked,
amplified) to conform to a perceived notion of excellence, tracking the palates of influential journalists. The
product thus becomes a means to an end: firstly, a desire for critical approval, to be the smartest clone in the
class; secondly, to perpetuate the notion that anything can be achieved by facsimile winemaking procedures. In
short: meet the Stepford wines.
When we know that the country of origin is wholly irrelevant: that virtually identical wine can be produced in
Pomerol, California, Italy, Spain or Chile by a flying winemaker, this is tantamount to a colonisation of taste, of
a kind of vinicultural imperialism that gives us an endless succession of smooth, sweet, varnished wines -
everything that the palate desires except individuality, except identity, except angularity. These may be big
wines in scope but they are small in spirit – as Promethean as a cash register as Pauline Kael memorably said of
one epic film. Whereas some architecture springs from the spirit of the place and is an extension of the landscape
and other architecture is an imposed collection of foreign materials; whereas some vineyards reflect the
biodiversity of the area and other vineyards are a monoculture of the vine, so wines can either embody their
locale – from the flavour of the terroir to the aspirations of the grower – or they can be entirely incidental to
place. If the latter is the case, don’t look for the address on the bottle; look for the name of the winemaker.
Branding, of course, exists throughout the wine trade. A coterie of writers and growers have created elitist
brands that exclude by virtue of price; the class system qua Parker encomia, and Mondovino, at times, turns into
a kind of pasquinade of the rich mugwumps who live on the hill in their respective bubbles of self-
aggrandisement. Some of the Californian enterprises have more than a whiff of the William Randolph Hearst’s
about them (Known as Nappy Valley Syndrome – The Gallo-lean philosophy of Cornucopernicus that posits
that the world of wine revolves around money.) Meanwhile, Michel Rolland, who looks somewhat like a mini
Pavarotti, makes operatic wines (in the And-That’s-What-I-Call-Micro-Oxygenation-Volume-57 vein) to satisfy
the Parker-point craving ambitions of those who view wine primarily in terms of its value. This is not so much a
comment on the world of wine as to say that the predaceous rich will inevitably get richer - because they want
to. It is more complicated than American ra-ra capitalism versus curmudgeonly French resistance to change (the
French were never that averse to “le quick buck” themselves). Globalism is far more insidious than the vaulting
ambitions of a few winemakers and scribes. It has a strong political dimension and, as one character in the
movie articulates, is primarily about the undue influence of certain powerful interest groups. Globalism is most
obviously apparent in agricultural policies that seem to be determined by the influential food lobbies and the
buying strategies of supermarkets. Globalism inevitably stifles diversity and creativity. It is obsessed with
money and the influence that money brings to bear. It is about corporate empires moving into a region or
country, establishing a monopoly and exploiting the local resources.
Ranged against the forces of globalism are individuals who pursue their visions, their dreams and their passions
without fear or favour. “I like order”, observes Volnay’s Hubert de Montille en badinant. “But I also like
disorder”. “To thine own self be true” – as long as people follow this precept the future integrity of wine will be
preserved despite the “hegemaniacal” (sic) aspirations of the big companies. We wouldn’t entirely endorse
Aimé Guibert’s gloomy prognostication that “Le vin est mort”. Many humble growers make uncompromisingly
good wine without regard to fashion or merit points; discerning merchants love to buy the wines and discerning
drinkers love to drink the wines. The interest in terroir is not confined to a few French growers; it is a
worldwide phenomenon, and signifies a new predilection for discovering the literal and figurative roots of wine.
The world of wine is a living organism: as it shrinks due to globalism it grows at the same time through
individuals, small groups and movements (such as Slow Food) dedicated to preserving the integrity and quality
of the product. Le vin est toujours vivant!
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Few people are aware that Jonathan Swift turned his satirical gaze onto the shenanigans of the wine trade. I
unearthed the following diatribe in the British Library within a lesser-thumbed copy of “The Complete Bile
of Swift: Divers Maledictions, Contumely and Lampoons.” This is one of his briefer squibs (known in critical
circles as “a swift one”) where he anathematises the wine trade (“a most noble endeavour”) with his
With indefatigable pain and study, having perused soporiferous discourses and analysed scientific treatises (which thereupon
I consigned to the eternal discretion of my fireplace) I have come to the conclusion that Fine Wine does not exist per se, but
is withal an imposture, being the invention of a peculiar confederacy of poets and crackpot journalists, those solemn notched
and cropped scriveners who suck their quills as it is said to derive inspiration in order to fill page after page with their idle
Moreover, these men and women have disguised the non-existence of Fine Wine by cunningly differentiating and according
schedules of marks to Factitious Bottles and exciting us to believe in the pre-eminence of certain wines by the use of Profound
Numbers and Subtil Gradients.
To these systems of marking have been tagged various subaltern doctrines, those being articulated thus by the illustrious
self-appointed wits, namely that the public interest is served by sewing confusion, so cheap wines are deemed good and
expensive wines are bad, except when that is not the case, that tasting is subjective, but a critic’s advice is wisdom born of
Crystalline Objectivity, and that Pinotage and Pleasure can inhabit the same sentence.
In accepting that appearance is more important than content, arbiters determine that wines are garlanded with a list of trophies
to attract the attention of customers, who, like eager magpies with eye for Glittering Bauble, will pluck the bottles from the
shelves and return triumphantly to their nests for we are but Compliant Monkeys dancing to the organ grinders of
I therefore beg to introduce several Modest Stratagems with utmost deference to the great and profound majority: firstly, that
the aforementioned labels be enlarged listing all the Grades, Achievements and Critical Panegyrics of that wine for customers
do not wish to know what the wine is, but need to be reassured that others believe it to be worthy of consumption.
Secondly, as we are always being encouraged by the grave Divines to accede to the virtues of good husbandry, and pursue
the course of least resistance, we may surely dispense with the luxury of real wine in the bottle. Henceforth, I propose that
all wine shall originate from a single vast alchemical factory (transmuting base grapes into base wine) in the former Colony
of Australia and that solely to provide a potable assemblage of Artificial Fruit Flavourings, added ethanol and appropriate
citric acids. Thus when the poets describe the flavour of wine, their Divine Treatises will not be some Imaginative Whimsy,
but statements of unvarnished fact tho’ the wine itself smacks of varnish pure and simple. And no longer will the Credulous
shall have some amusing nomenclature such as Great White White or Wombat Creek Red for it is proven that people set great
store by such Meagre Frivolities and will fall upon such product like ravening hordes despite that a regular intake of such
fluids has proven to Rot Gaskins and render a Miasmic After-breath.
And I have heard it affirmed that the rational inhabitants of Australia, being of scientific disposition and low cunning,
repeatedly reinvent the wheel and sell it back to us under a new guise. I believe, if I am not mistaken, that once they planted
grapes on the surface of the sun in order to ripen and gave us Sublime Alcohol for our pleasure. Now they have discovered
the dark aspect of the moon for a cool climate makes a Paregoric Potion agreeable to critical taste. Surely this ability to
adapt to the gentle Commercial Zephyrs displays the vigorous principle and philosophical inclination of a country of great
genius and rightly do its dwellers smile at the Anticks of the cracked-brained daggled-tail French Cacafuegos who it is
rumoured mutter incantations to their vines to animate the sap and claim to have invented The Phenomenon of Terroir, an
Arcanum that these gilded Antipodean Wranglers rightly dismiss as Aeolian Flummery (except where it suits them to use it
to advertise the distinctive qualities of their own wines) and that the disposition of vines on certain soils is but a fortuitous
concourse of Atomies. These bushwhackers beguile us importunately with the solicitation that no man may resist the logic
of (their) invention for invention’s sake. Since I calculate that within ten years Australia shall be One Gigantic Vineyard
criss-crossed by busy tractors, yielding a Wine Glacier which will melt and raise the sea level by several feet of Chardonnay,
it would be stark insensibility to disavow the elegance of their arguments.
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A MODERN PROPOSAL cont…
Moreover, I read an article in an august local pamphlet wherein a self-effacing young man, a noble modern Paracelsus,
meekly derogated the wines of France, saying that they were worthy only to cook with and adducing as his evidence for this
contention the vastness of the Antipodean Continent as to calculate inbred superiority for he said one might journey a
thousand miles and taste Identical Chardonnay as if the wine had been made by The Great Universal Artificer himself. I
have heard such sentiments articulated on many occasions by eximious men who are carried to their views by pure instinct
such as rats are drawn to the best cheese or wasps to the fairest fruit (or so my friend JS assures me).
To return to my discourse I humbly submit that the benefits of Industrial Refinements shall be many. Possibly one life every
century may be saved in the steep-sloped vineyards in Germany as when a worker who tries to harvest the last inaccessible
nobly rotten berry plunges screaming to his death in the foaming Rhine below. Moreover, the hideous and distressing
dissipation of wine during wine festivals and tastings will be eliminated for these institutions will no longer exist, allowing
exhibition centres to be employed for more gainful employment such as mass displays of Pornographic Equipment. For the
sake of the environment, tankers, which formerly carried oil, will be adapted to convey Riesling (and run on Riesling) from
the vale of Clare for it is a noted characteristic of that wine to mimic Petroleum, and, should they run aground, the intoxication
and consequent ardent spirits of a few thousands Penguins or Turtles is not too savage a price to pay. Finally, corks can be
returned to the trees from which they were initially liberated and the aesthetically pleasing Non-Biodegradable Plastic
Enclosures may be recycled to make Sculptures to win The Turner Prize.
My Lucubrations have furthermore revealed that just as one might extract sunbeams from cucumbers and gold from base
metal, that Critical Pomposity, a substance more ethereal than the vapours of a Lawyer’s Breath, may be converted into
beneficial matter, that the utterances of the canters are sufficient as to drive hundred score of Wind Machines to create the
electricity to power the divers utensils required to manufacture wine. Thus I have arranged for all the critics in the world to
be placed in one Talking Shop as it were and each to be given a giant echoic spittoon to bombinate in.
And there shall be grand occasions to mark the Exequies for Bordeaux which, though it may have entered our millennium in
through the portcullis, will leave through the oubliette, its dropsied reputation mourned by only a few Crusted Ancients, and
also grand occasions to read the last rites for Sarsenet-Textured Burgundies not to mention the hyssop-scented
consanguineous wines of the Rhône and the Languedoc et&c. For tradition and quality may be viewed solely as
encumbrances, two Phylloxera-Belching Albatrosses around the single neck of the great French Regions.
I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I believe that all that is great and good is the product of Scientific Contraptions
and without recourse to Newfangledness we would all still be Jut-Browed Dwellers in caves beating our brains with the Jaw-
Bone of an Ass, for Nature is a rude abomination to be broken like a wild horse just as imagination and intuition and spirit
are faculties lower than reason and need reining in. Reason also dictates that diversity is madness, that people seek a simple
truth in their lives and that for efficiency’s sake we must demand the most consistent wine at the cheapest prices. There can
be only one future for wine: one where Science remedies Nature’s Defects, where liquid is made to defer to the Great Taste
of the Public. I present with easy conscience my modest proposal for wines as FLAVOURED ALCOPOPS and urge my
friend, the advocate, Master Robert Parker, to write a Compendious Manual extolling their merits.
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Interpretation of Terms: In these Conditions unless the context otherwise permits:
means Les Caves de Pyrene Limited Registered number 3053492 of Pew Corner, Old Portsmouth Road,
Artington, Guildford, GU3 1LP
means all or any products which the Company is to supply in accordance with these conditions.
means the person to whom the Company agrees to sell the Goods
Nine litres or 12x75cl. Cases may be split in multiples of six bottles.
Prices exclude VAT at 20% (subject to Government jurisdiction).
The Company reserves the right to alter prices without prior notice.
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*Cheque payments require seven day clearance.
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Each time the Company receives bank notification that a client’s payment
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All wines are subject to availability at the time of the client’s order.
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maintain the Goods in satisfactory condition and keep them insured
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Title of Goods continued:
The Goods shall remain the sole and absolute property of the Company as
legal and equitable owner until such time as the Purchaser shall have paid
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on its own behalf as principal (and not as agent for the Company).
- 409 -
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