Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tasting, physical and mental

1995 P.S. Baumler Becker-Erben

Does tasting require a competency in a set of physical skills, as well as mental? I've been reading Neal Rosenthal's book Reflections of a Wine Merchant for what seems like the 10th time, and it seems like yes, physical prowess is indeed a requirement for a full appreciation of wine.

So how do you get there? Robert Parker claims he was born with a more sensitive palate (something about literally having more taste-sensing papillae on his tongue) than average, making him a naturally gifted tasted. Sort of the wine-drinker's version of middle aged, Porsche purchasing overcompensation. It's an American thing. But if that were the case, should we be resigned to the fact that people with an average number of papillae will never become good wine tasters? And by implication, that we'll never be able to truly appreciate wine?


Yes, I agree that the palate needs to be trained. Yes, book knowledge is also critical. But this (American) idea that one can simply be born a naturally gifted wine taster? Nonsense. What so many critics and writers are obsessed about, but won't name, is a matter of taste. Simply put, some people (Parker, Trump, certain Indian billionaires), have no taste. While I don't deny that Parker has an experienced palate, I will absolutely deny that he has good taste. Yes, you might have the means to throw a $78 million wedding for your daughter but with 80% of Indians living on less than $2 a day . . . . . enough said.

So the real question is - how do you acquire taste? Money helps. As does a family with a cellar holding old bottles of the usuals (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Mosel, Barolo). But can you really acquire taste if you're self-taught, if you have no prior experience at all with wine? Or does it come naturally, like the man who doesn't need a magazine to tell him what he should be wearing, driving, smoking . . .

I guess we'll find out. No one's a really accurate judge of themselves anyway. Right, Bob?


1 comment:

  1. the post aside, i've been impressed with the recent photos!!