Wine & Words

At the end of ‘a week-in-the-wilds’, the residential writing weeks that I run in Southern France, and in order to celebrate the bravery of the writers who have dared to go into the wild, I offer an evening of wine tasting, accompanied by readings of the Wild Words that have been produced on the journey.

It’s always a spirited event! Wine expert based in Languedoc, Emma Kershaw, describes the tasting experience,

We close our eyes and inhale the heady aromas of blackcurrant, pepper, cedar, tobacco, liquorice, rosemary and earth. …Just one swirl of a glass transports us back to another time, another place, a memorable moment.

With every sip, we connect with the history, the soil, the weather, and the people of this area, as we also aim to do in our writing.

But more than that, drinking wine is helpful (you’ll be delighted to hear) for honing two important writer-in-the-wild skills: using sensory impressions, and employing metaphor.

As in the process of writing creatively, sight, smell, taste, sound and touch are all engaged at a wine tasting. The characteristics of a wine are often conveyed by likening them to other things. You might describe a wine as ‘flamboyant’ ‘oaked’ ‘bright’ ‘toasty’ ‘charcoal’ or ‘laser-like’. Dr Ernesto Suarez-Toste describes how…

wine folks use metaphor all the time…structure and mouthfeel almost always demand the use of figurative language…For one thing we personify wine most of the time. Not simply by saying it has a nose instead of a smell. It has character, it’s endowed with human virtues and vices. It can be generous, sexy, voluptuous, whimsical, shy, demure, bold or aggressive. We almost cannot conceive wine without personifying it. We reach for metaphors because …there is no single lexicon with the expressive potential to cover all the range of sensorial impressions.

Wendy Gedney, who leads wine tours of the Languedoc region, was working on her book 'The Wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon', aiming

to paint a vivid picture of this ancient and beautiful place and its sun-drenched wines.

She found that her energy was not forming on the page, and thought that Wild Words might help. She describes how,

The course helped me enormously. It reenergised me and lead me to rewrite, form and sculpt the words to not only bring my writing but also the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon, alive.’

Wendy’s book ‘The Wines of Languedoc Roussillon’ is available on Amazon.

Christmas may present you with the ideal opportunity to undertake the following exercise…

Take a sip of wine (or of another alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink, if that’s more to your taste). Write a description of the experience, in prose or poetry, that includes the following elements:

  • Sight (colour and other visual elements)
  • Taste
  • Smell
  • Touch (Of the liquid on your tongue. Of your hand on the glass or bottle etc.)
  • Sound (Of the swilling liquid. Of the swallowing etc.)
  • Relax your mind as you enjoy the tasting. Where does the experience transport you to? How could you better convey it to the reader by using metaphor?