The language of wine commerce is nothing if not redundant, a barely digestible gallimaufry of hollow jargon, euphemism and tautology, infused with self-importance and seasoned with the obsessive desire to reinvent the wheel. Here are some of our favourite clunkers spotted in the wine press (as it were) this week. If you drill down (there’s another one) into the stories behind the headlines there’s always a lot less than meets the eye.
Top – Enjoying an exalted reputation regardless of real merit.
Top wine, top commentator, top brand, top seller, top banana
Icon – Absurdly expensive luxury brand.
Used in the sense of “Icon hardly afford this wine”… Part of the quasi-religious terminology that permeates the wine industry. See also (wine) guru.
Takes to an entirely new level – Something that helps to improve performance a little.
The wine trade loves hierarchies, stratification and pyramids. And new levels.
Test drive – Dining in a restaurant for the first time.
Jocular journalese which is now part of the lexicon of gastronomic über-jargon. Wine lists can also be test-driven by the mere expedience of ordering a couple of different wines by the glass.
Pioneering – Used here in the sense of creating a new commercial art form
No, not discovering the North West Passage nor a life-saving surgical procedure, pioneering tends to refer to any half-interesting practice or process in the wine trade that hasn’t been written about for at least two years. In other words “slightly novel.”
Movement – Two or more people engaged in a frenzy of self-promotion.
Used in a derogatory sense such as The Natural Wine Movement (makes it more real if you put it in capital letters). May also describe a shift in taste, as in “There is a movement away from Chardonnay towards Sauvignon.”
Trending – What I decided to tweet about ten minutes ago.
If two or more people are trending the same idea on social media it becomes a de facto movement.
Out-marketing – Brand, styles, regions, even countries can be out-marketed.
Whatever that means.
Seismic shift – Small incremental change
(Particularly insensitive in one example when it referred to developments in the Chilean wine market)
Guru – A venerable personality in the world of wine, often a critic whose pronouncements move markets.
Secondary meaning is someone who claims ownership of a specialist field, be it in winemaking or marketing, and whose every utterance is revered as a pearl of sacred experiential wisdom.
Revolutionise the wine industry – Market wine creatively
Often used in conjunction with the cliché “game-changer”. If only, for the expression is an oxymoron. Revolutions are like wheels, they go round in circles and end up where they started.
Slam(s) – Mildly observe or gently castigate.
The wannabe rent-a-quoter chooses his or her target carefully as grand slamming is a gift to the lazy magazine sub-editor.
Such-and-such country has the potential to produce stunning….insert grape.
In the last 3 months I read that Chile one day will make world-class Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling. In other words, if it is already widely planted it has the potential to be great, and if it is not planted already… it has the potential to be great.