Wavian Wine Writing

The Catholic Herald has a review of Auberon Waugh’s 1986 book Waugh on Wine which has been reprinted by Quartet Books. The review is by David Platzer who writes:

Waugh reveals in his introduction that it was Tina Brown, his former protégé who was then spicing up the staid Tatler before her departure to New York, who encouraged him to write about wine. As the Tatler’s wine correspondent, he disguised himself as Crispin de la Crispian, a Pimpernel-like pen name he dropped in future wine columns in Harper’s & Queen and the Spectator.

Waugh was the most consistently entertaining writer of his generation. He could make his articles enjoyable even to those less than fascinated by the subject. […] Reading Waugh gives one that agreeable feeling, not only that one wine is better than another but that one knows why.[…]

Waugh was wrongly accused of being a snob by those who failed to grasp his teases. His priority in praising a wine invariably depended on its cost, just as he would tick off a book if it was too expensive. […] He ended this delightful collection with an essay on “Evelyn Waugh’s Wine” in which he describes his too often misunderstood father as “a gentle, humorous man – sometimes sad, sometimes gloomy – and nowhere near as bad-tempered as he appeared to the Press.” His explanation for his father’s abandonment of claret, which Evelyn had once loved, is a must for devotees of “Waviana”.

The new edition contains an introduction by Naim Attallah who also edited the recently published collection of Auberons’s essays, A Scribbler in Soho. See previous posts. It is not available yet in the USA but can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk.

Forbes magazine, meanwhile, has advocated an approach to wine writing which sounds very much like the Herald’s description of Auberon Waugh’s. This is in an article written by John Mariani who wants to abolish what he calls “winespeak” and uses a passage from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited to illustrate what he is talking about:

[…]Nowhere is Winespeak better parodied than in Evelyn Waugh’s 1944 novel Brideshead Revisited,  when two drunken roués describe various bottlings as “a little, shy wine like a gazelle. . . . Like a leprechaun. . . . Dappled, in a tapestry meadow” and “like the last unicorn.”

Obviously such satires of such piffle haven’t stopped the wine media from trudging on in the pages of Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Decanter and other publications with hundreds of descriptions that range from technical gibberish like, “Brett in the nose, incomplete malolactic fermentation, a slight taste of graphite, a scent of botrytis, and enough vanillin to suggest overuse of new French barriques,” to reveries like “cinnamon, Meyer lemon, papaya, Monte Cristo No. 2 with Dominican wrapping, cat’s pee, and a hint of Sicilian blood orange.” Perhaps the silliest descriptor I’ve ever heard was in the 2013 documentary Somm, in which one wine steward preparing to take the Master Sommelier Exam, exclaims with mind-boggling certainty, “I’m getting notes of. . . freshly cut garden hose.” […]

UPDATE (5 July 2019): A link was provided to an earlier post and other non-substantive edits were made.

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