Tasting Notes: Wine Delusions

I don’t know if the liquor stores where you live post tasting notes with some or all of the wines they sell. The government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario, commonly known as LCBO, stores here often do. I love to read those notes.

It’s not that I find the notes particularly entertaining, interesting or helpful. It’s just that, as I read them, I like to imagine that, after a tough day’s work of tasting and writing up their impressions of the wines, kind, burly men in spotless, starched white coats lead the tasters away to soulless padded rooms, strap them into institutional beds, remove all sharp objects and choking hazards, and lock them away until their next hard day of tasting and writing.

Tasting Notes, As If

Why do I imagine this? The tasting notes usually list a collection of berries and fruits, the occasional vegetable, herb or flower, sometimes tobacco, and often few other odds and ends. I can’t detect any of them in the wine no matter how carefully I smell and/or taste it. None. (Well, almost none. See below.)

I’m convinced the tasters are completely delusional. They are, no doubt, in need of professional help to cope with their delusions in those portions of their daily lives that don’t involve wine. They could probably benefit from mental health care during the wine-related portions of their days as well, but they have jobs to do.

It’s understandable that I can’t taste tobacco when it’s listed on the note. I’ve never smoked so I have no familiarity with tobacco. However, the other itemized florae are typically vegetation I’ve eaten and/or smelled, if not often, then at least occasionally. Nevertheless, I usually can’t distinguish any of the listed flavors.


There is one exception. The exception is, to say the least, extraordinarily weird. When the tasting note says that the wine has an “oaky” flavor, I know exactly what that means. And I can discern that taste in the wine. And that was true right from the first time I encountered it.

I think that’s bizarre because—this may come as a shock to you considering how sophisticated I am—I’ve never actually tasted an oak tree. That’s probably because I’m a certified city boy. Or, more accurately, a certified city old man.

If it’s not on the menu in a restaurant in Toronto, my hometown, or in any of the places I visit on my travels, then I probably haven’t tasted it.

Because Toronto is a very urban city, oak is never on the menu here—at least, not that I’ve ever seen. Sure, there’s maple syrup, but never oak, not even the syrup from an oak. For all I know, if you go out into the country oak may be a staple in every restaurant there. But not here.

Woody Tastes

I cannot recall ever seeing an oak tree, or a twig thereof, on any menu in any restaurant anywhere I’ve ever been. That may simply be because I usually visit only ultra-urban areas. There’s a good reason for that.

Once you get too far from the city you may run into vicious animals like deer and owls. And you may have to leave behind creature comforts like couches, televisions, refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, popcorn poppers, comfy mattresses, showers and, most importantly, flush toilets. My philosophy is that if God wanted us to be among the former and away from the latter He, She or It wouldn’t have blessed us with cities.

In truth, I don’t believe in God, but I’ll glom onto any excuse I can find to avoid an overnight trip into the wilds of nature or, much worse still, the suburbs.

Thus, having stuck largely to cities, I’ve never seen oak on any menu I’ve ever encountered. The menu sometimes lists fish or meats planked on oak or grilled on an oak-based fire. And there are recipes that include acorns from oak trees. But those are different flavours as far as my taste buds are concerned.

So, the question is, if I’ve never tasted an oak tree, how am I able to identify an oaky flavor? I don’t understand it.

I’ll bet the people who write up the wine tasting notes know the answer to that question. Maybe they’ll tell me if I go and talk to them during visiting hours. They’d probably enjoy the company.


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