I host weekly wine tastings in Birmingham. These are good fun both for me, and, I hope, the attendees. As part of the evening’s format, the customers vote for their favourite wines from the selection tasted and this blog is a thought on a style of red wine that seems ‘hit the spot’ with most customers – and male customers particularly.
I’m referring to the full bodied and high alcohol reds, as manifested in Primitivo (AKA Zinfandel), Shiraz, Pinotage and Valpolicella – Ripasso or Amarone styles. I am sure there are others, but you get the idea. It’s not that I deny that customers can vote them as their favourite wines but I am aiming the question back at myself. Why can’t I appreciate them? Likewise, why can’t I appreciate a good malt whisky, different gins, refined tea flavours or distinctive beers.
Is it just a matter of taste or is there more going on?
I think I have a good palate and appreciate the effects of flavour combinations. However, I believe there is a mental side to this as well. Rather like a Shakespeare play, the more you learn, the more you appreciate, therefore it’s not just the senses but also the mind that is involved in the process. There is not such a thing as pure aesthetics. The extension to this argument is that we can be conditioned – or condition ourselves – to appreciate, or not appreciate, something. Or, even worse, to be bothered to appreciate something or not.
This can be experienced at tastings when group appreciation occurs. Someone says they like something or can detect something and there are noddings of heads. Suddenly, everyone appreciates it.
So, to return to those heavier reds, so liked by my customers. How far have I set my mind against their perceived powerful black fruit flavours, the unrefined jamminess and the dollop of sweetness at the finish?
Maybe it’s not just a matter of taste, after all.