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On Tasting
Comparing Wine Types and Dog Breeds
Saturday, 1st August, 2009  - David Farmer

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Thousands of years of selective breeding have turned out an amazing array of distinctive breeds that accentuate such unusual features as screwed up faces, short legs, large droopy ears and a myriad of other recessive gene characters. Most of these breeds would not last long in the wild. And all of these dog breeds exist under the one sub-species.

This got me thinking about wine which also displays a myriad of variations all from the one species, and these also emphasise gene characters that would not exist in the wild such as white varieties which are an albino of the wild red coloured variety. Hidden away in your local specialty wine shop is many an oddity.

So difficult is it to keep up with all the mystery of wine that a group of journalist has evolved, mostly quite recently, to keep us informed about all of this interbreeding. Part of their method to inform us about what is going on is to describe, often in great detail, how a particular brand or type of wine tastes. These are referred to as 'wine tasting notes'.

Here are two examples from the first two sites I opened and many a fine effort can be found by delving into the collection of Glug Wine Quotes.

Here is Yak Shaya's description of the Cote Rotie 'La Mouline' 1988 (Guigal)

"Wonderful concentration of red fruit, black pepper and clean earthy aromas, with soft vanilla tones engulfing them. Only partially forward, the nose is so deep and rich, you almost don't need to sniff - it sprouts out of the glass on its own...

"Seductive winey nectar that is loaded with fruit and spices. Semi ripe (fruit) at this point with hints of sweetness. Massive and vigorous yet elegant, this is a mouthfilling wine if there ever was one. Tannic but not overly so, with good acidity for balance. Obviously still very young but deliciously tasty even now."

And another from the Cloudy Bay site for the Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008.

"Scented and summery, the 2008 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc has deliciously vibrant aromatics that infuse the tropical fragrance of fresh passionfruit and juicy pineapples with garden-fresh basil and the spiciness of crushed tomato leaves. The palate is long and succulent, combining exotic fruits with ripe, red capsicum and a twist of green olive... beautifully complemented by crisp natural acidity and a hint of lime zest."

We now have a collection of red fruit, pepper, earth, vanilla, fruit, spices, tropical fragrance, passionfruit, pineapples, basil, red capsicum, green olive, tomato leaves, limes, exotic fruits, which combine with sweetness, seductive, mouthfilling, vigorous, summery, vibrant, and being succulent to give most pleasing tastes. This is the modern way of writing tasting notes; relate a wine impression back to vegetables, fruit, flowers and meats and then link these with an emotive term. Does this though help you understand what the wine will taste like? Have we indeed improved upon; 'this is a cheeky little number'? To bolster their opinions the writer adds at the end a most useful device which is a number or score to solidify the tasting note.

I've been thinking that a better way to relate back to the consumer what a wine will be like is to compare it to a dog breed thus providing an easily imagined visual symbol.

You must understand that this new advance is a work in progress and does require fine tuning.

Let us start with the world's most popular breed the Labrador Retriever noted for its overly friendly character, an 'eat anything' appetite, a tendency of leaping around when young and licking people, an ability to never show anger or annoyance and a habit of squatting on your feet. Surely this is a description of a simple, easy drink of no offence that will be enjoyed by all, and has to be those quaffable sauvignon blanc's pouring out of New Zealand. The Golden Retriever is an up market version of sauvignon blanc for posh people and may be from a more distinguished site.

The Australian Kelpie is extroverted, easy going dog, loves being out in the sun, and is frequently seen in the back of a ute or with its head hanging out the car window, good for rounding up sheep and very reliable. Well tell me if that is not a full description of our own version of bottled sunshine, a Riverland chardonnay.

Warming to this theme we can see that a big, warm, ripe Barossa shiraz of the type that is known as a 'Parker wine', in reference to the famous American critic, must be a dog of robust character, extroverted without shame for its antics, but stately with a good pedigree, a guard dog with a frightening growl just in case and with a Germanic ancestry which makes it a German Shepherd.

It is well know that the famous London dog show 'Crufts' is a corruption of 'Crofts' the famous fortified and port house which means that fortifieds relate to that English of all dog breeds, those peculiar dogs such as bulldogs and the like that have trouble breathing, are gruff and sturdy, cannot be pushed or pulled in any direction but are warm and affection. One of these the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is noted for going round and round chasing its tail and this relates back to the passing of the port decanter round and round the table.

This is an area wide open for detailed research and just ask yourself what this description of a Basset Hound relates to; exaggerated features including long drooping ears, an amazing sense of smell and at the same time has no height but does have length - why that has to be a gewürztraminer.

Dog breeds like wine move in and out of fashion and after the famous Disney film 101 Dalmatians' every one purchased one but soon they were off to the pound and think about it; is that not the fate of pinot gris and whatever happened to cold duck, ah the same thing that happened to duck hunting dogs, they fell out of fashion because of animal liberationists.

Rosé, well that is easy as this most ridiculous of all drinks which have no pedigree at all and of which there are 100,000 types relates to all the mongrel dogs the world over. To all the worlds roses I give you a bitza.

And sadly dogs age and pass away. They move from youth, to prime in a flash and then it's a long slow decline and high veterinary bills. Wait too long to open your wines and the same fate awaits them. Expensive stuff poured down the drain.

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