Background photo: Languedoc vineyards (Richard
And that’s another thing. Have you noticed how exclamation marks are
creeping into almost everything? Every Christmas, one of my old
school-friends sends me - and presumably everyone else - a photocopied
letter with trivial news of family members, most of whom I have never met. I
can put up with this, but not the exclamation marks, which appear at the end
of almost every sentence. You know the kind of thing: We went to the best
bar in town! I had a sherry! And Jim had two beers!! Now I don’t know
about you, but I find this irritating and somewhat childish.
The American novelist
and screenwriter Elmore Leonard didn’t much care for exclamation marks
either. In his excellent Ten Rules of Writing he says, “Keep your
exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three
per 100,000 words of prose.” Just to put that figure into perspective, this
column contains just over 1,000 words. The Charles Dickens novel, A Tale
of Two Cities contains 135,420 words and Ray Bradbury’s novel
Fahrenheit 451 manages to struggle by on a mere 46,118.
Oh, and in case you’re
wondering, bangorrhea isn’t an exotic grape variety, or one of those
diseases that you avoid mentioning in polite conversation. It actually means
the over-use of exclamation marks in a vain attempt to make your writing
sound more exciting or lighter in tone. The British linguist and author
David Crystal found that females used exclamation marks four times as often
as males. I had suspected this all along.
exclamation marks didn’t appear on typewriters until the 1970s. Before then,
you had to type a full stop; push the clunky back-space key; press and hold
the shift key and then type an apostrophe. Perhaps because of all this
palaver, people didn’t use exclamation marks very often. Of course, the only
time we can safely employ them is after an exclamation or an imperative.
“Sod off!” is correctly punctuated, if somewhat impolite. “This is the best
bar in town!” is neither.
Now then, where was I?
(I was beginning to wonder the same thing - Ed.) Ah yes, wine. Oh
dear, I did lose the thread for a moment. It sometimes happens when you get
older, you know.
Chardonnay 2012 (white), France (Bt. 649 @ Wine Connection)
A distant acquaintance
of mine, when asked what wine she’d prefer, is fond of saying in a
world-weary sort of way, “Anything but Chardonnay”. I suspect she’s never
actually had a decent one and being Australian is familiar only with bland
commercial local plonk churned out for the undiscerning masses.
Incidentally, I have nothing against Australians, because in one of my
previous lives I was a wombat. The point is that if you said “Anything but
Chardonnay” in Burgundy where it’s the white grape par excellence and
makes some of the finest white wines in the world, you’d probably be lynched
or at least bombarded with goat droppings.
Chardonnay is from the Languedoc, down in the southern part of France. It’s
an attractive bright golden yellow with a very pronounced Chardonnay
character because it’s made from grapes grown on old vines. I know this not
because of my mysterious psychic powers, but because it says vielles
vignes (“old vines”) on the label. The two circular logos
indicate that the wine won a Gold Medal at last year’s Berlin Wine Trophy.
Give it a sniff and
you’ll get an attractive, clean-cut aroma of pear and vanilla. It’s very dry
with a smooth mouth-feel and a good balance between the fruit and the
attractive tang of acidity. There’s a surprisingly long and persistent dry
fruity finish too. It’s a pleasant wine to swig on a hot summer’s evening
but at 13.5% alcohol and its dash of acidity, it would probably be best with
food. Rich salmon, tuna or mild chicken dishes spring to mind, perhaps with
some kind of creamy sauce. I’d guess it would work well with a cheese quiche
too. I should really go into the kitchen and knock up a quiche just to test
the theory. But honestly, at this end of the week, I really can’t be
bothered messing around with pastry. In any case, my nerves are a bit frayed
because Ee-ah (one of the dogs) has been practising her clarinet for the
last two hours. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Incidentally, the wine
comes in a Burgundy-style bottle and Les Mougeottes does sound a bit
like a Burgundian village in the Côte de Nuits. One of my friends had the
temerity to suggest that the makers want to give the impression to innocent
customers that the wine is from Burgundy. Honestly, how cynical can you get?
The French would never resort to such knavish tricks. Perish the thought.
Le Grand Pinot Noir
France (Bt. 490 @ Wine Connection)
The aromas of Pinot
Noir (PEE-noh NWAH) can sometimes be a bit enigmatic. Red fruits such
as cranberry and raspberry often dominate the aroma but sometimes the wine
has more elemental smells, earthy, tree-bark aromas or remainders of stalks
and sap. This is not as surprising as it seems because every drop of wine in
your glass was once sap in a stick, as British wine-writer Hugh Johnson once
This wine comes from
grapes grown in the foothills of the Pyrenees, near the town of Limoux in
south-west France. The label shows a drawing of a large black sheep under
which the words “black sheep” are helpfully printed, presumably in case you
fail to recognise it. The wine is lighter than I expected, perhaps even a
bit too light for a Pinot. It’s actually a blend of Pinot Noir (88%)
and Grenache (12%) with an aroma of sour cherries, currants, a dash of
citrus and herby spices. It’s a very dry wine with a tang of acidity but the
taste struck me as rather unusual and quite different in style to a Pinot
Noir from Burgundy. The fruit is restrained, the tannins are very soft and
there’s a long, dry finish. I’d describe it as a food wine because it would
go well with pork dishes and a variety of cheeses. Unusually for a red wine,
you could even try pairing it with tuna or salmon.
And by the way, be
sure to avoid exclamation marks in your next letter! Otherwise I shall send
Ee-ah around to your place to practise her clarinet! You won’t forget that
in a hurry!