Winemag Winemag Maryse Chevriere / Photo by Adam DeTour

The Wine Enthusiast Guide to Art and Wine

Maryse Chevriere on Illustrating Wine Tasting Notes

When wine is described as “hedonistic,” “funky” or “tightly wound,” what do you picture? How would you illustrate “freshly baked bread and sweaty latex gloves morphing to heavenly petrichor and black thick bosomy cherry laced in a spearmint bodice?”

Just ask sommelier/journalist Maryse Chevriere, founder of the James Beard Award-winning Instagram account @freshcutgardenhose. In this account, which is named after the oft-quoted wine description featured in the documentary Somm, she brings the colorful world of wine tasting notes to comic life.

Shy Fruit
Maryse Chevriere’s Illustration of “Shy Fruit”

How did you start doing the drawings?

They just came out of procrastination and boredom. I was studying for my [sommelier] certification and took a two-minute break and was looking at wine porn on my phone. I saw some descriptions and thought, “That sounds funny. I wonder what that would look like.” I just started doodling, which got me thinking about the way people talk about wine. I wanted to see what would happen if I just threw it up online to see where it would go.

On the surface, it seems like you’re poking fun at pretentious tasting notes, but it’s really celebrating the colorful language we use, and how endlessly evocative wine can be.

It definitely started off as poking fun at this industry that I belong to, and these things that I contribute to, that are absurd. But the more I got to doing it, and thinking about it, and hunting for fun notes—and seeing how many boring, non-interesting notes there are out there—the more I wanted it to be…an actual reflection of the wine. Obviously, sometimes people go to extremes and say things just to say things. But wine’s so intangible, these things actually make sense. I think it’s fun to put a face to it.

 

Toasted Coconut and Orange Rind
Maryse Chevriere’s Illustration of “Toasted Coconut and Orange Rind”

In the Somm documentary, the audience giggles when Ian Cauble describes the wine as “freshly cut garden hose,” but I was impressed. It takes a lot of confidence to recognize that without hesitation. How did you develop your own confidence as taster?

It takes a lot of time to feel confident outside of the boxes that you’re given. The [tasting] grid is super helpful as a jumping-off point, but while you can always find your citrus and apples or whatever, it’s important to really hone in on a very specific taste memory and to not be afraid to say it: “This reminds me of the one time I smelled this thing when I was at this place.” Because that’s totally possible. It’s important to not feel shy saying those things.

Mouth Coating
Maryse Chevriere’s Depiction “Mouth Coating”

Has doing the drawings changed your own descriptions of wine, or how you talk about it with people?

I think I still use very standard words. If I’m selling on the floor or anything like that, I don’t go into crazy tasting notes. I’ll think about it more from an experience. So instead of, “You’re going to get these flavor profiles,” I’m more like, “This is the wine that you want to have in this setting with these people at this moment.” It’s just thinking outside of the box a little bit, about different ways to connect people to a wine, and looking for touch points with another person.

Art and Wine Through Time

1950, Nature Morte au Couteau, Fernand Léger; oil on canvas, France
1976, Le Troubadour, Joan Miró; etching and aquatint, Spain 

Do you have a background in art?

I don’t. At all. I’ve always had an interest in art, more on the typography side, and I have a big appreciation for graffiti art, but it’s not something I’ve studied formally. That’s the reason the drawings are so basic. It’s just line drawing. I read cartoons a lot as a kid.

Art, like wine, is something that’s often seen as inaccessible, even though anyone can appreciate it. What I love about your drawings is that you don’t have to be a wine geek to enjoy them.

I think definitely, subconsciously or not, part of this is to want to make wine more accessible and more fun. My parents drink wine, they love wine, but they don’t understand half the things we say. And I have friends that aren’t even wine drinkers that enjoy it. So I think it’s nice that everyone can get a laugh out of it, and not have to be just for a circle of wine friends.

Published on April 2, 2018
Topics: Interviews
About the Author
Nils Bernstein
Contributing Editor, Food

A fan of sweet wines, sour beers, and old-school Rioja, Bernstein is an exhaustive traveler in search of new and unsung chefs and restaurants, innovative wine and food pairings, and eating and drinking at the source. In addition to Wine Enthusiast, Bernstein has written for Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, New York Times, Men’s Fitness, Hemispheres, and Kinfolk, among others.

Email: nbernstein@wineenthusiast.net

SUBSCRIBE TO
NEWSLETTERS
The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories