Monday, November 3, 2008

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

...Or maybe it means what you think it means, and I don't know what it means. So, what is the word, and what does it mean?

At the Wine Bloggers Conference the last weekend of October, I tasted a lot of wines and talked to a lot of winery people. There was a term being bandied about quite a bit with regard to some of the Syrahs and Pinot Noirs. The term?

high toned

Okay, I know that we can probably infer the meaning of this term. Since I was tasting the wines as they were being described, my inference was that high toned means more or less the same thing as when I say a wine tastes bright. I also heard someone say "high toned red fruit" with strawberry as an example. But, I want to know if there's anything more to it. Is this the same thing as talking about top notes in perfume? According to Tanzer's Wine Glossary, and the Wine Lover's Page, "high toned" refers to a low level of Volatile Acidity (AKA aroma of vinegar) that, in excess, is a flaw but that in low levels can heighten the fruity aromas of a wine.

What about that strawberry taste? I looked that up too on Plant Physiology (Thanks AbleGrape!) and it tells me that strawberry (in addition to most fruit) flavor is a Volatile Ester.

So, maybe there's a slight distinction to be made between "high toned" and "high toned red fruit." You could have high toned purple fruit, for example, although nobody ever says that (wonder why?). Anyway, I think we get the gist.

I mainly bring this topic up because there is a tendency to use jargon in any field, and jargon has a tendency to proliferate by inference rather than by explicit definition. When it comes to wine consumers, wine jargon is part of the intimidation factor with wine. So, does asking the definition of a wine term make me or you a wine noob? Maybe, but who cares? The only way to become knowledgeable is to learn, right?

p.s. The title of this post is a quote from Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride (1987).


Orion Slayer said...


How could a topic so intircate and, at time, nebulous as wine be effected by jargon?

I had not heard that term yet. Thanks for sharing that term and what it means. I'll be a little more informed when I hear it.

Your reference to Princess Bride makes me want to watch it again! I think I'll open a nice Spanish Tempranillo, or maybe a Sicilian wine?

Taster B said...

Ahaha! I don't know if you follow @eljefetwisted on Twitter but, he changed his avatar to Inigo Montoya today just hours before this post was scheduled to publish! Of course, it was @winebratsf with her Buttercup avatar the other night that got me thinking of The Princess Bride! ;)

john witherspoon said...

thanks for the lesson taster B. I had inferred that that was the term high toned meant, but had taken the time to look it up. It is not one that I use on a regular basis, because I don't use terms that I am not exactly sure of what they mean. makes sense right!! haha

and asking questions doesn't make you a noob, just makes you an inquisitive wine geek!! :)

Taster B said...

Inquisitive wine geek! I like it! :)

Richard A. said...

A new term for me as well. Maybe it is a West Coast thing?

Taster B said...

Richard, good point--it could be. Also, leads to another point which is maybe someone just started saying it and it caught on, which I think is great. Personally, I love to search for new words to perfectly describe what I'm tasting and think anyone should feel entitled to do so.

Taster A said...

I have to agree with Oraion Slayer. Perhaps some Tempranillo, or maybe you want me to have some Sicilian Sedara. Or perhaps you are offering me Sedara so I take the Tempranillo...