Friday, March 14, 2008

A Taste of Briar

Words can be such magical things, so strangely compelling and beautiful, subversive, manipulative, entrancing, and of course practical and descriptive as well. And so many other things. I think all of us are probably more affected and influenced by the words we encounter than we fully realize, even those of us like myself who are admittedly very verbal people. Sometimes I notice it happening; many more times, I'm sure, the affect that a certain string of words pulls out of me flies well below the radar, pushing me and directing me in any number of ways.

Today, I was doing a spot of shopping before work, as I'm leaving this afternoon for a weekend ski trip and wanted to be able to get an early start and not get mired at the market later on. As St. Patrick's Day is coming up, my friends and I had decided to make an Irish lamb stew Saturday evening. I dropped into the wine store and asked the clerk there if he could help me pick a nice wine to match a simple lamb stew. First he suggested a Napa Cabernet, describing it, I think, as ripe and juicy and a good value. Then he went on to a French Cotes Du Rhone, calling it "a little feistier, tart, with a tast of briars". He went on to show another couple of bottles but I was already sold, and barely paid attention to his further suggestions. Walking out of the store I realized what captured me was his use of the word "briar".

Now I have no idea how that word would translate into the taste of wine, or indeed if it would translate into something that I would even appreciate as a flavor, but it's a favorite word of mine, mixing folklore and nature and personal experience and symbolism (thorns, flower, love) into such a heady brew that I couldn't get it out of my mind. Vistas of castles hidden by brambles and thorns, memories of wading through wild rose looking for nesting birds; any number of connections and images arose from the use of this simple word. And I don't doubt that it will somehow affect the way I perceive the quality and taste of the wine when we finally get around to opening it.

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

ps The picture, by the way, is "The Legend of the Briar Rose", by Sir Edmund Burne-Jones, 1870-90, that I culled from the internet. It appears to me that in the upper right hand corner of the painting Darth Vader is walking around in the briar patch.

1 comment:

Esme kenney said...

And did it taste of briar? The word is charming. I agree. L