This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, March 23, 2005.

Japanese art Wine haiku

In a field as tradition-bound and conservative as writing about wine, it is a rare and beautiful thing to encounter a concept so new and so appealing that upon encountering it you can only suck in your breath and say, "Damn! Why didn't I think of that?"

I'm in just that state today, shocked and awed and immensely amused by the work of New York wine lover Lane Steinberg, who pens a delightful wine "blog" in which he posts periodic wine-tasting reports - always on red wines - in the strict poetic form of the Japanese haiku.

Don't laugh. This is seriously good stuff.

Antoine Rodet Gevrey-Chambertin (France) 1998
The nose was like dog
Soaking wet from heavy rain
But it drank like dreams

Haiku - literally "short verse" in Japanese - is a deceptively simple verse form, said to have originated as a drinking-party game but turned into an art form by the 17th century Japanese poet Basho. Translated into modern English, haiku is a short, three-line poem. Strictly interpreted, it should include one line of five syllables, one line of seven syllables and a final line of five:

Five syllables first
Then exactly seven more
With five to finish

It's not counting syllables that makes haiku poetry, though, but choosing the words that will trigger an emotional response. Haiku, it is said, "by its very nature asks each reader to be a poet" because, if well-done, it all but forces you to come up with a vivid visual image that finishes the work that the poet started.

Steinberg, who credits his elderly junior high school English teacher, Miss Gimpel, with introducing him rather unwillingly to haiku, clearly gets that. "It seems to me that haiku is the perfect vehicle to encapsulate all aspects of red wine, from the mysteriously sublime to the numbingly mundane," he said. "These haikus provide a quick blast of an impression without getting too specific. If the haikus are good, you should be able to taste them in your mind."

With almost 60 wine haikus on his "blog" and counting, Steinberg does this very well indeed. I love 'em!

Marquis Phillips Shiraz (Australia) 2002
A velvet hammer
The blood of an animal
Heretofore unknown

Carmen Reserve Pinot Noir (Chile) 1999
Some people like this
I could barely swallow it
Mogen David's Ghost

Damn, why didn't I think of that?

WEB LINKS: Lane Steinberg's Red Wine Haiku Review is online, frequently updated, at
Steinberg welcomes E-mail comments, questions, even compliments, at

Campus Oaks It's been many years since I earned my bachelor's degree in English, and my days as a poet are well behind me. But, inspired by Steinberg's work, I couldn't resist taking a shot at posting today's tasting report in a somewhat less ethereal poetic form than haiku:

Campus Oaks 2001 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

There once was a big Zin from Lodi,
Full of ripe berry fruit and melodi-
   ous oaky vanilla,
   as strong as a gorilla,
A poem more vinous than ode-y.

(March 21, 2005)

FOOD MATCH: A delight both as an ingredient and an accompaniment to long-braised, tender lamb shanks, stripped from the bones and shredded in its own sauce over rigatoni.

Campus Oaks is made by the Gnekow Family winery. Its Website, listed on the label, is currently down.

This wine is a current offering from The California Wine Club. Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit

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