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Lost in Translation (Why We Taste)
A computer was given the task of translating, from English to Russian and back to English, the phrase, ‘The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ What came back? ‘The wine is good, but the meat is spoiled’. Or witness the tourist in Germany, who asked for a ‘heisser hund’. It turns out that is NOT a hot dog, but a dog in heat. Lesson: a too-literal translation is rarely a good idea.
This principle also applies to wine. “This wine has spicy blackberry and plum flavors” does NOT mean it is made with blackberries. Or plums. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with citrus notes? No actual grapefruit in the wine. Just the grapes, ma’am.
Like the heisser hund, these are extreme examples. Most people realize that wine is made from grapes. But even then, words can get in the way-because they mean different things to different people. Sometimes, it’s a case of ‘winespeak’ versus ‘normal’ language. What I describe as ‘dry’ might strike you as ‘bitter’. My zesty is your sour. Etcetera.
But terminology can also be literally lost in translation, not from language to language, but from personal taste to personal taste. What seems sweet to one person is merely fruity to another. My tannic is your smooth. Your acidic is my bland.
This is why we taste. With the same wine in our glasses, we can bridge any language barrier. You like that? Great-you’ll also like this. You don’t like that? You want something bolder than the first red, but smoother than the second one? Got it-we can do that. Tasting helps us to better understand our customers, to speak the same language. Plus: delicious wine.
All gain, no loss. It’s the best sort of translation.