Tasting Coffee with a Wine Drinker’s Palette: Intelligentsia Cruz Del Sur
Happy Wednesday (aka Dining Section day) to you all. Ever since the Minimalist disappeared from the Dining Section’s pages, I’ve been forced to dedicate more attention to columns I otherwise would have skimmed over.
Case in point: The Pour, by Eric Asimov. I have neither the legal requirements nor the cash to spend money on booze, let alone classy wine. I can tell the difference between something like Yellowtail and a Cote-de-Rhone, obviously, but my wine-tasting palette… let’s just say it doesn’t hold a candle to my coffee snobbery.
Today’s article, Summing Up Wine in Two Words, may have been about wine, but for once, I could apply it to what I know: COFFEE. Both the coffee and wine industries are similar in that they tend to utilize overly pretentious vocabulary, with descriptions that I see as a game of word association (see my thoughts on this here).
Asimov seems to agree with this, saying,
Most of the gaudy descriptions found in tasting notes will not help a whit to understand the character of a bottle of wine or to anticipate the experience of drinking it. While it may seem heretical to say, the more specific the description of a wine, the less useful information is actually transmitted.
He goes on to add that each bottle will be different, depending on the time it’s opened and how much time passes before tasting (Just like coffee… see a pattern?). Asimov’s main point is that wines can be divided into two general types: sweet and savory. Now, I don’t especially think this holds true for coffee, but what really struck me was his definition of sweetness:
But when I use the word sweet, I’m thinking not only of actual sugar in the wine, but more often of the impression of sweetness… Savory wines, as you imagine, are the ones that don’t leave the impression of sweetness.
Now, just as I was reading these words, I happened to be sipping on some really excellent Intelligentsia Cruz Del Sur, Peru, which I’ve been drinking for the past week. The description on the bag says, “Balanced with a gentle acidity, easy-going notes of nougat, toasted dates provide depth. The finish is honeyed and chocolatey.”
I actually think this description is well-worded. Don’t know how much I taste nougat per se, but what I want to emphasize is the word “finish.” Note that the coffee itself is slightly acidic, but the aftertaste is rounder and sweeter. Before reading The Pour today, in my mind this coffee was just “sweet.” In fact, the description on Intelligentsia’s website claims that it “tastes like a big, chewy brownie.”
I profoundly disagree with this. Most brownies are stodgy, cloying and much too sweet. There isn’t much depth, and certainly no acidity. I’ve realized that going by the terms “sweet” and “savory,” Sumatras tend to be savory (associated with bell pepper flavors) for the same reason that South Americans tend to be sweet: their aftertaste.
So, take away two things from this post:
- If you are a wine snob, you have the potential to be a coffee snob, and vice versa (presuming you have the $$)
- Never chug coffee. Otherwise you’ll only taste the predominant flavors of the cup, and that elusive, subtle aftertaste that is, in effect, its “soul,” will vanish.