What's a Wine Cliché?

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By Robert Farmerwine label view.jpg

In the landscape of the written world, the dubious "cliché" is one of the most maligned creatures--something to be steered clear of, a menace to descriptive prose, ridiculed and frowned upon and, ultimately, often unavoidable. And since the written word also applies to wine labels, the loathsome creature frequently creeps its way onto that space as well.

How many "hand-crafted" wines from "artisan-grown" grapes have you tasted? My guess is more than you think, because you haven't paid too close attention to labels where one frequently encounters prose as purple as the wine inside.

But help is on the way. Enter the so-called BATL (the Bureau of Awful, Trite Labels), as announced recently in a news article that tickled my funny bone. According to the great imagination of the author,* the Bureau is headed up by Rutgers University English professor Farnsworth Spellum, who has it in for clichés of all sorts, but has now turned his critical pen toward wine.He's got a mind to banish such phrases as "immediately approachable" and "great wines begin in the vineyard" (where, I probably don't have to point out, all wines begin).

This satire caught my eye and I thought it worth sharing because, in my estimation, much of wine description and discussion has edged dangerously close to cliché oblivion. The author also cites as offending the many and never-ending puns on zinfandel ("deadly zins" and "zinphomaniacs" to name a couple), but I would posit that cliché abuse goes well beyond attempts to be clever. When will we stop with the colorful "industry speak" and get down to what really matters: tell me if you like it or not, and if you care to, tell me why. More on this later. But for now, let me climb down from my soapbox, to use a cliché.

(*With acknowledgments to Ed Schwartz at the Napa Valley Register)

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