Claret tasting – thoughts

The claret tasting confirmed my belief that tasting is not a subjective experience; that there are qualities in a wine that tasters find aesthetically pleasing. In fact, I wonder how much subjectivity is present in tasting. Just like some iconic paintings that most viewers find attractive, wines can be appreciated for their combinations of colours, smells and flavours. That is different to the taster liking them, however, as we can appreciate the quality of something without necessarily liking it On Saturday evening, ten people were asked to vote for the their top two wines. Those people had a range of experience in tasting, were young and old and of both sexes. The votes cast had a narrow spread, most chose wines 2, 5 and 6, with wine number 5 (Pontet- Canet) appearing on everyone’s list; 8 people put in in first place. Pontet-Canet and Leoville Barton (5 & 6) were also the most expensive, whilst number 2 (d’Issan) was the third most expensive. Any manufacturer must make their product attractive to ensure sales. They are very aware of their markets and would not invest millions of capital in a market that was so subjective as to make any volume of sales a lottery. Wine makers must also be aware of combinations of techniques and grapes that produce certain aesthetically pleasing effects, hence the blending process being very important. My argument is that the quality required resides in the wine more than (though not wholly) the subjective impression of the taster. As I said above, appreciating is not the same as liking but we can, objectively, recognise a ‘good’ wine – and therefore train ourselves to.

[Richard: subjective/objective is something Geoff and I have discussed quite a bit over the years. Loosely put ‘is there a canon?’ I am firmly in the subjective camp, in other words the view of the individual will always prevail over the view of the expert. If you don’t like it then that says nothing about your taste or lack thereof. Not quite the point Geoff is making of course which is one you would expect from a ‘wine educator’. Bu the arguments about ‘natural’ wine indicate another way of thinking. For example we are conditioned to prize clarity over cloudiness. Why? Especially if the clarity has been achieved by additives. ‘We drink with our eyes’ as my father-in-law (ex-brewery) used to say. But if the taste is good…

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