Cheesy descriptions

langres champagne

Try on this shelf-talker: “Just think of a scene in a movie where the lead actress, obviously one of the greats, turns around slowly and walks away from the camera taking your entire attention with her.” A Chambertin? A ’47 Cheval Blanc?

Actually, it’s for a cheese. The Times ran a piece last week on cheesemongers and their descriptors. Their often serve up one part metaphor, one part tasting note and often are funny without being overdone. Cheese sales has an advantage over wine sales since a cheesemonger can use the shelf-talker to provoke interest and the consumer has the chance to sample, immediately reconciling his or her palate with the description.

Wine tasting notes have evolved from metaphor to the explosion of aroma wheel fruit descriptors and beyond. Of course, the culmination of wine shelf-talkers is point scores, a fate we would not wish befall cheesemongers. That would be stinkier than a ripe epoisses.

Writing good tasting notes is hard to do. What do you think of cheese descriptors–accurate? Annoying? Enticing?

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6 Responses to “Cheesy descriptions”


  1. The cheese descriptors I remember at the old Murray’s Cheese shop (the corner of Cornelia and Bleecker) were fantastic.

    Don’t know about them these days, as I have been away for a while…


  2. I remember doing something like this years ago for wines that needed shelf talkers but had no press. We’d just start heading off on tangents, usually equating the wine to a famous actor or band. But after a while it gets a little silly, as each of us has a different opinion of each actor or band. While we all might agree that Audrey Hepburn is elegant and graceful, others think the Stones are great and I have always hated them. Generational differences. So we stopped. That and after a while it was getting a little too “wine x”, which was really tedious.


  3. Thomas – I agree that Murray’s descriptions are often excellent. Click through to the story to see the latest from other shops.

    Daniel – I agree, the celebrity metaphor can go too far and, as you point out, open to multiple interpretations. But the descriptions highlighted in the story often blend enough of metaphor with actual taste to be interesting. Consider this:

    “Taleggio Way more classic and rustic than a dog-eared copy of Gibbon, yet as potent and trenchant. This washed rind Italian is the basis for so many others, but few match the tangy flavor and pastoral aromas (hmmm, barnyard).”


  4. …and so I did, Dr. Vino.

    I miss my hometown.


  5. I read this piece in the times and thoroughly enjoyed it–sometimes I really think wine writers would be better off taking a step back from “hints of bramble” and writing tasting notes that were more fun since tastes are subjective after all.


  6. So, having suffered through International Art English (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/jan/27/users-guide-international-art-english?fb=native&commentpage=4) and International Wine English, we now have International Cheese Engish, as well.


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