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  • Ken Hay

Wine Writers

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

I scribbled this grizzle in high dudgeon at high altitude about eighteen months ago - while flying from Melbourne to Perth – my home.

I have daughters in Victoria and nip across now and then for family occasions, grand-kids ballet debuts and to help out in times of crisis. About once a year I hook up the caravan and drive over; other times I fly – Virgin! I gave up on Qantas ages ago – long before the gender neutral, politically correct last straw hit the jet engine intake. Wouldn’t dream of it now.

As an aside –Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson got a knighthood for kicking off the airline he named Virgin. Big winner too – quite apart from the knighthood – in no small way due to his smarts, preparation before taking risks and, possibly, avoidance of political correctness and other such stupidity. Whatever – but he runs a damned good airline and given I only do it once a year, as a rule, on each such occasion, I shout myself a Business Class ticket with Virgin and thoroughly enjoy it.I do wonder, though, if the airline would have done as well had he named it, “Mary”, or “Strumpet”, or “Floozy” or “Toy Boy”, (just to keep the genders in balance). We will never know.

Now, having done with that slight digression. I am flying at about 30,000 feet nearer my God to him/her one hour and 28 minutes short of Perth. Finished lunch and sipping on the second glass of a very acceptable Pinot Grigio. Casually perused the Business Class menu (again) and wine list and started reading the notes of some wine guru discussing the finer points of the very wine I was entertaining. He had quite a bit to say about it and what he said began to stick in my gullet and caused my mind to begin to boggle.

Just to prove my point have a look at the NINETEEN, yes, NINETEEN adjectives/phrases  this bloke regurgitated in a paragraph of 57 words in describing one wine. The list begins - straw, then – pale watery, honey, hay, reduction, yeast lees, toffee apples, eu-de-cologne, floral, apple crumble, crunch, flavours, cinnamon, spiciness, custard apple, wheat germ, nice waxy texture, freshness, and breathlessly finishes with – complexity.

Sounds more like the mess left by a lightning strike on the cooking marquise at the Royal Show! For crying out loud! When he wrote that he had to be joking, blind staggering drunk or, more likely – both.

Makes one wonder, or openly question, why those who commission, and also – although it beggars belief – pay for it, don’t tell the clowns something like, “Forget the bullshit sport, just write real, down to earth descriptions of good wine. And you might find it easier if you write while sober – if possible.”

I make no claims at wine expertise and readily acknowledge most of those who write about it for the media do so sensibly and without the sort of drivel I described above. They do have a bit of jargon, of course – don’t we all? – but it usually makes sense when one pulls out the old Concise English to check a word. Lees, for instance, often gets a mention and my (the old Concise English is now too heavy for my arthritic fingers), defines it as, “The insoluble matter that settles from a liquid, especially from wine…”

 I do enjoy wine with most evening meals and follow the age old custom of red meat – red wine; white meat - white wine but have my own system of describing wine, viz “Excellent; Very Good; Good; Not too flash; Awful; Paint stripper!” Works well and all  my friends and mates understand perfectly what I mean. Of course one must exercise a little discretion when describing a wine one of them has brought to dinner.

Well, having got that off my chest, it’s time to knock up the spag bol and allow a bottle of nice Merlot to breathe.

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