Making fun of wine tasters should be an official amateur sport. It’s easy enough, with our pretentious sniff and swirl of the glass, followed by socially awkward gargling as we aerate the wine in our mouths. And oh, the spitting.
Well, okay; even if we’re not spitting at a formal tasting, we are known to wax poetic about exotic flowers, spices or stones we perceive in our wines. Blackberries, currants, even sweaty saddle leather have been known to make cameo appearances in a wineglass. And then there’s “cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush,” a classic description of New Zealand sauvignon blanc — even though most Americans have never tasted a gooseberry.
Maryse Chevriere has a professional interest in the silly language of wine tasting. As a 29-year-old sommelier at Petit Crenn, a high-end restaurant in San Francisco, and a certified sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers program, Chevriere scours social media platforms such as Instagram, Vivino and Delectable for tips on wines that might be worthy additions to a wine list. And while most of us might read a wine description and wonder what the wine tastes like, Chevriere takes a different tack: She visualizes the description and puts pencil to paper, with surreal and witty results.
“I was studying for my certified exam and had recently watched the ‘Somm’ documentary,” she explains, referring to last year’s movie about the master sommelier program. “Looking through my phone, which is always full of wine apps, I came across a particularly fantastic wine description and thought, ‘I wonder what that would look like.’ So I started doodling and put it up on Instagram, and it became a great way not to study.”
The tasting note that fired her imagination and inspired her first doodle said simply, “Never thought I’d see so many roses in one room,” Chevriere recalled recently in a phone interview. After each pencil sketch, she goes over the drawing in pen and colored marker, then snaps a photo of it on her smartphone.
The distraction soon became an Instagram account, which she dubbed Fresh Cut Garden Hose, after a particularly outlandish wine description dropped by Ian Cauble, a sommelier featured in “Somm.” A favorable mention by Food and Wine lent some notoriety; Chevriere’s Instagram account now has more than 2,900 followers. Those lampooned often revel in getting “the FCGH treatment.” Last month, she was nominated for a James Beard Award in the humor category. (Beard winners in journalism are set to be announced Tuesday, April 26.)
“Lightning strikes a rose garden, blasts rain dampened earth in your face,” reads one tasting note brought to life by Chevriere’s doodle pen. Would anyone guess nebbiolo for that one? Who cares?
“Man-eating shark with a laser on its head. But a friendly one.” That’s a vintage champagne, of course.
And her favorite? A gamay that “really started to fatten up after a while in the glass.”
“I just drew a fat baby in a red diaper resting in a wineglass,” Chevriere laughs.
Chevriere grew up in Houston, but her family hails from Bordeaux, France, where they once had a winery, she says. Before moving to San Francisco, she worked at Terroir, a wine bar in New York City.
“I like underdog grapes: classic, sommy high-acid wines like Riesling and chenin blanc, or wines from Alsace,” she says. “I like wine that’s fun to drink; interesting but not super, super challenging.”
When she started her blog, Chevriere looked for reviews by other sommeliers and wine trade professionals for material. It was a way of “poking fun” at her colleagues, she admits.
“Now I think it’s helpful,” she says. “Maybe a review sounds ridiculous, but it’s an expression of how wine evokes emotional responses. I kind of like the weirder descriptions more now. I like really weird wine, anyway. It can come off as snobby, but it’s also a way of looking at wine as more fun.”