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on acid

In this is juice not jam on November 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Like every other nerdy imbiber in New York City, I’m currently reading Eric Asimov’s How to Love Wine. While discussing the shortcomings of The Tasting Note, Mr. Asimov addresses useless and useful ways of talking about wine. The following, he rightfully argues, exemplifies the latter:

Is [the wine] fresh, lively, or energetic? Or does it settle in the mouth with a dispiriting flaccidity?

I get what he means by dispiriting flaccidity. It’s not difficult to figure it out (context clues!) But it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, at least not in the context of casual wine bar conversation. For example:

You: Do you have any Malbec?

Me: Well, yes, but it’s from Cahors rather than Mendoza – so you’ll find none of the latter’s dispiriting flaccidity.

So I’d like to introduce another term to our wine lexicon.


What’s that, you say? Perhaps a limerick can explain:

Let’s add something new to “wine talk”:

Dutch word, can also describe schlock

For without acid           

Wine will be flaccid

You’ve been swaffeled: hit with limp cock

Yes, this 2008 Dutch Word of the Year effectively conveys the disappointment or downright outrage provoked by any acidity-challenged wine. In both penises and wine, no lift makes for dissatisfied people.

Is my suggestion ludicrous? Perhaps. But not within the context of the evocative tradition of wine writing, where how a wine makes you feel takes precedence over what a wine tastes like.

If I say, “Fuck, that fruit bomb just swaffeled me,” it’s not entirely different from:

Come quickly, I am tasting stars! as (the fictional) Dom Perignon said; or,

Ça descend la gorge comme le bébé Jésus en culottes de velours as the Burgundians (supposedly) say; or,

Like a swan…Like the last unicorn as Evelyn Waugh’s Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte said.

More obscure? Sure. More racy? That’s what I’m here for. But not radically new. Rather, it’s a conversation starter, like every wine ought to be.

So as the holiday season approaches, beware the swaffelen wine. Sure, that “sour taste” may be initially off-putting, but it’s exactly what you’ll need to cut through the inevitable sensorial and caloric overload that is Thanksgiving. As the days grow shorter and colder, you may find yourself seeking comfort in the rich & jammy, the warm & toasty. That’s natural. Just make sure there’s some acid to balance it all out – no one wants a flaccid dick to the face.