Some Good Shit

MintyLike many a webworker – I’m addicted to Podcasts and am pretty much plugged in on a daily basis to the best of APM, NPR, Guardian News Media, Grape Radio etc. Robert Krulwich of NPR did a show the other day about the MIT Bioengineering faculty, and the dawn of a new species under the fostering care of some students with olfactory concerns. You can listen to the show here, but basically the show discusses how for bio-engineering students – life is spent in fume cupboards culturing e-coli in a petri-dishes, and due to the fact that e-coli smells like, er, smells like, well… shit, these students applied their trade to splice out the shit-smelling gene from the e-coli and replace it with the gene from Wintergreen that makes Wintergreen smell like Spearmint resulting in good smelling shit.

Now this story struck a chord with me because from time to time in a winocentric situation people may sidle up to me and ask in hushed tones how can smell of apples, or blood, or cigars, and essentially the ultimate question is ‘are people putting apples/ blood and sweat into the ?’ Whilst making may be a lot of blood sweat and tears, it is only so in a metaphorical sense. One has to really sympathize with this question because people often speak with such authority about that it makes people scared to ask obvious questions. Essentially the story just demonstrates that the aromas inherent to a plant are at a biological level – and in trying to find what we smell, we’re doing some detective like nose-work and trying to gain a greater understanding of what is in the glass. Part of the guess work done is in being able to come up with linguistic descriptors on which to hang your hat. So in essence – the linguistic descriptor used to describe e-coli is ‘shitty’ whist we use ‘minty’ to describe Wintergreen, and all that has done is swap the shitty with the minty.


At this juncture I insert a widget from Last FM which contains similar to that of Feist… because I’ve been reading a lot of reviews about her – and one of the great things about music journalism is the attempts to describe a musicians sound, or voice. Essentially how does one describe a medium in words that should ultimately be heard? Feist has alternately been described by various reviewers as either sounding like ‘carved steam‘ or ‘crushed mirrors in a satin bag‘ – now there’s nothing in Feist’s genetics that lends to sounding like crushed mirrors in a satin bag… but its a fan-fucking-tastic description that really opens her up to the imagination. In this vein one could describe Eddie Vedder as ‘rusted razor blades slicing sandstone’ even… and though you may not know what that means it certainly makes you want to listen. Together with online reviews and recommendations, you may perhaps want to listen to Feist – apps like Last FM will also tell you who else she sounds like. So if carved steam doesn’t help… if one perhaps said Regina Spektor meets Cat Power, that may be more helpful. Following that, you may also be interested to find out she plays with Broken Social Scene… and so on down the rabbit hole.

This is where wine and music meet – at the point where words fail us in personal, private internal experiences – and we sometimes have to turn to a reviewer to help us explain or to a friend to get recommendations of what else tastes similar. Grapethinking and its team are on a missions together with many other bloggers to help explain what wine and technology mean to young people, what it means to us, and how we’d like it to change. So if you ever come unstuck, and perhaps are lost for words to describe something or need a bottle of wine that tastes a certain way – then don’t be shy, and give us a shout…

Also – don’t forget its Mother’s Day… so if you haven’t got a gift and need an idea go to

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Posted in Design, Millennials, Stories, Thoughts, Wine | 2 Comments »

  • Ruarri

    A good example of finding a linguistic peg on which to hang an experiential hat is Tom Warke’s recent use of “Velvet Bite” to describe good scotch:

  • Ruarri

    A good example of finding a linguistic peg on which to hang an experiential hat is Tom Warke’s recent use of “Velvet Bite” to describe good scotch: