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Sexy Sommeliers And the Poetry of Wine-talk

March 7, 2010

I mentioned a sommelier in the last post. He was Italian, which was why he came up. But now I want to talk more generally about sommeliers. When thinking about attractive professions, women often say doctor, vet, poet, artist or vibrant entrepreneur. Something along those lines. Some, of course, say banker or something weird like private equity fund owner.

But my suggestion for sexy profession of the week (I guess now I have a “sexy profession of the week category”) is sommelier. First, sommeliers themselves. It is rare these days to find old doddering French men with twisting handlebar moustaches presiding over the wine list and staring unhelpfully when you pause to reflect WHICH French white, out of 300, would work best with your fish. The Connaught, Benares, L’Anima (which used to have a young saucy Israeli sommelier), the new Bruno Loubet, Boundary, Boxwood Café, all have wine lists chosen by and presided over by young, attractive people, some of whom – ahem – are women rocking out in a still male dominated world.

While I am sure the women sommeliers are attractive to men (or they should be – hell, the husky-sounding, deeply loquacious one at Boston’s hottest new restaurant, Sportello, practically made me reconsider my sexuality), I am certainly partial to a well-spoken, soft-voiced European sommelier. For I have begun to realize- after necking enough it in posh places –  just how challenging it is to speak convincingly and meaningfully about wine. It’s a smell and a taste, right? I have always struggled to see or describe it as more. After years of trying I can just about tell a sommelier that I “like” the oaked, buttery straw-coloured types of Chardonnays. For someone who writes for a living, based on the ability to describe things hastily, this is fairly pathetic.

Well, for these people, wine is a world of shape and abstraction that is as yet largely invisible to me, as well as one of painstaking science and poetry. The way in which they talk about wine is a poetry in itself, and – because it’s anchored in something so chemical and real and earthy – somehow more attractive than actual poetry uttered by a well-meaning romantic. Allow me to quote from the blog of a wine connoisseur and sommelier, talking about something called Dom du Cros, Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2006 Marcillac. “A simpler and humbler style,” he says, as if speaking of a Tuscan hermit. “Good sharp acidity, plenty of red primary fruit with a hint of herbaciousness,” as if talking about…well, something that only exists in the vinous dimension and imagination. A hint of herbaciousness? Take that, Wordsworth! He talks of “varietal character” (as any complex human possesses).  Elsewhere, “a light yeasty note popped”, a “clean and restrained nose” appears and woop! It’s “cassis, plums and herbs” all round. See what I mean? Find me a doctor or lawyer (or artist) that talks like that and I’ll pay you in Bordeaux. (Errr, or Jacob’s Creek).

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