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the metaphors of wine description
the metaphors of wine description

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Published by: api-3857105 on Oct 19, 2008
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\u201cA Monster in a Beautiful Frock\u201d: Textile Metaphors in the
Description and Evaluation of Wine
Rosario Caballero Rodr\u00edguez1 and Ernesto Su\u00e1rez Toste1
1Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha

Metaphors in wine discourse fill gaps that cannot be reached by any other
means. In spite of all
the possibilities covered by chemical analysis, figurative language is essential
in wine jargon if
we must describe the range of sensorial (visual, olfactory, and tactile)
impressions a wine can
give us. Here we analyse a corpus of over 3,500 tasting notes and focus on the
way textile
metaphors are used to describe a red wine\u2019s mouthfeel \u2014 the perception of its
in the palate. Because the tasting note is a consumers\u2019 tool, we also focus on
the evaluative
implications of specific realisations.

According to scientists and wine professionals, wines may well be
analysed in highly
technical terms, i.e., by alluding to their percentage of alcohol, their pH,
tannins etc.
(see Clarke and Bakker 2004). Such analysis would, nevertheless, be
intelligible to a few experts concerned with the most scientific aspects of
(e.g., chemists, oenologists, and a restricted number of critics with a
background), but would be difficult for the growing number of people
participating in
the various discourses articulated around the topic of wine (e.g.,
participants in formal
and informal wine tasting gatherings, wine merchants, consumers,
advertisers, etc). Rather, wines and, particularly, the visual, olfactory
and gustative
experiences afforded by them (i.e., the three canonical phases in wine
tasting) are
usually described by means of such everyday, well-known words asbody,

healthy, mute, silky, sickly, well-knit, robust, senileor masculine, all of which are
commonly used in many other contexts. In other words, in order to
describe the

organoleptic experience of wine, wine experts and aficionados inevitably
turn to
Indeed, metaphor is ubiquitous in wine discourse (Bruce, 2000;
Amoraritei, 2002;
Gluck, 2003). A case in point is the large amount of lexis \u2018borrowed\u2019 from
the human
domain in order to discuss wine. Thus, we find that the different stages
in the
development of a wine are recurrently referred to by means of terms like

baby, young,
well-aged, venerableo r dead. So much so that the drinking of a wine in a

stage of development is often condemned as \u2018infanticide\u2019. Likewise, the
combination \u2014
as perceived in the mouth \u2014 of alcohol, acids and tannin in a wine is
labelled as itsbody, and the tannins (or acids in certain cases) supporting
it as its

backboneor spine. Finally, given this anthropomorphic view of wine\u2019s
structure, it is
far from surprising to find different wine components referred to as its
nose, palate, legs

(sometimes also namedtears), orro b e s, whereas a wine\u2019spersonal ity is
often evaluated
by means of adjectives prototypically used in the qualification of human
beings (e.g.,

brooding, friendly, sexy, voluptuous).

Nevertheless, although wine discourse cannot do without metaphor, its
figurative nature has sometimes been seen \u2014 even if in an understated
manner \u2014 as a
negative rather than a positive characteristic, that is, as some kind of
\u2018juggling\u2019 with
words (Peynaud, 1987) or as some sort of \u2018camouflage\u2019 more typical of
lampoon than of
technical, serious discourse (Gluck, 2003). On the other hand, other
scholars also
pointing to the figurative quality of wine assessment have explained
understanding of the figurative language used as the result of the
connotative power of
words and their relationships with other words in the lexicon. Thus, in
Lehrer\u2019s (1992)
own terms


Especially interesting are the descriptors that are taken over from very
semantic domains, such as words that describe personality and character:

aggressive, charming, diffident, honest, feminine, masculine. How can these
descriptions be meaningful? In order to understand how a wine can taste
feminineor aggressive, we rely on intralinguistic associations. Since feminine is

semantically related to words likesweet,perfumed,light, anddelicate, which
can be related to the smell, taste, and \u201cfeel\u201d of wines in the mouth, we can
understand how a wine might be described asfeminine. (Lehrer, 1992: 13)

This paper explores the metaphorical language used by wine experts to
describe the
mouthfeel of a wine or itspalate, that is, the third stage in the stepwise
process of wine
tasting. Due to length constraints, we will exclusively focus on the textile
used to describe and evaluate the texture of red wines in the mouth and,
as a result, their
structure. The topic is approached from the vantage point of cognitive
concretely the theory of metaphor developed after Lakoff and Johnson\u2019s
book Metaphors We Live by (1980), and extensively developed thereafter. In
accordance with this theoretical framework, metaphor is not seen as a
ornament (or \u2018juggling\u2019 with words) but, rather, as an essential heuristic
tool that fulfils
our cognitive and communicative needs. Metaphor is, therefore,
regarded as a cognitive
process ormapping by which we understand and talk about a given
domain of
experience (theta rg et in the metaphor) using the entities, properties and
pertaining to a different domain of experience (theso u rce). In the case of
discourse, metaphor not only reveals the way wine specialists
conceptualise the subject
at issue, but also helps them \u2018translate\u2019 the complex sensorial
experience of tasting wine
into something more graspable or intelligible \u2014 and, accordingly,
susceptible to being
transmitted and learnt. Finally, the understanding of the figurative
language realising the
metaphors underlying the conceptualisation of wine is not regarded as
relying solely on
the intralinguistic associations of the terms used in verbal description
but, rather, as


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