Yuzu and calamansi
When writing about wine, I try to be very particular about the words I use, taking care not to embellish wines with descriptors that are not detectable in the glass. The words I use reflect the characters that I as the taster perceive. Some wines are like chameleons, offering different perspectives depending on how long they’ve been opened or if they are served with food. These wines provide endless stimulation for a writer. In contrast, certain wines have very specific characters that are revealed in an instant. But others are rather nondescript, leaving you nothing much to say.
The language of aromas and flavours is very particular to the individual. It is based on our experiences as well as the attention we pay to the different environments in which we find ourselves.
The purpose of language is to communicate. Of course, we need to use words that most people will understand. However, sometimes we don’t have all the words we need. That is evident when we come across an interesting scent but have the inability to put that smell into words.
Last year Wine Australia released the ‘Australian Wine Flavours Card’ listing Chinese equivalents to common Australian wine descriptors to help producers communicate in a relevant and meaningful way with the Chinese consumer. For example, our term for a strawberry preserve is akin to the Chinese ‘dried wolfberry’.
I am always intrigued by a descriptor of which I know nothing. Grant Dickson, of FermentAsian fame, has opened my eyes to the term calamansi, which he uses to describe Tim Smith’s 2016 Eden Valley Riesling, which is available by the glass his much-loved Barossa eatery.
My interest was immediately piqued as I had no idea what calamansi was. For a fleeting moment, I thought it might have been a typo for calamari, but I wouldn’t have thought a cephalopod would be a drawcard for a riesling! So, I did some digging and found that it was a plant widely grown in the Philippines, also known as Calamondin.
In the Philippines, calamansi is a popular backyard fruit, small and spherical with green skin with orange flesh, that looks a bit like a small lime and tastes like a mix of sour mandarin and lime. It sounds like a perfect descriptor for a riesling.
Yuzu is another exotic fruit, which after a trip to Japan, became part of my wine tasting language. Once you smell and taste the fruit, it will quickly become your new favourite! It is wildly aromatic, in the citrus sphere, with lively top notes and incredible freshness.
So, I started thinking about the diversity that exists in the citrus world. We are of course familiar with oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, grapefruits and the differences that exist between the zest and juice, not to mention their heavenly blossoms, or what they look like when transformed into preserves and desserts. And then there are the variants of blood oranges, Valencia’s, navels, pink grapefruits, Tahitian limes, kaffir limes, honey murcotts, clementines and imperials. What about finger lime, cumquat, tangerine, tangelo, Buddha’s hand, bergamot and chinotto.
It may be time for a little cultivation of my vocabulary. But first I need a trip to the fruit shop.