It’s a whole new year and that means New Year resolutions. While shopping in Monmouth Bottle Shop and Wine Cellar recently, the discussion turned to wine resolutions and the promise to try something new and avoid the same old wine rut.
According to Ralph Real, when it comes to learning about wine, there are actually three categories: “knowledge by description” (reading tasting notes); “knowledge by acquaintance” (sampling at a tasting); and “knowledge by exposure” (learning from actually drinking a wine, preferably with food and with other wine lovers). there is a new fourth category, “Virtual tasting” which has deluded some wine lovers into thinking that they “know” a wine because tasting notes in chat boards, blogs, magazines and newsletters. It’s easy to see how that sort of pretend-knowledge is nonsense.
How do you get over the intimidation?
Recognize the fact that even when you’ve actually tasted a wine your knowledge may be superficial at best, your tastebuds will tell you if they like it or not.
Don’t Look at the score, look at the taster—never assume a score exists independently from the taster who creates it or that you will automatically agree with that rating. The score and the taster are synonymous. Just like movie reviews, wine reviews are based on an individual’s perception of that particular movie or wine. So if you decide to follow scores, pay attention to how that reviewers palate differentiates from yours, what they may find sickenly sweet, you may find utterly delicious it doesn’t mean you are wrong. That’s why Wine Spectator always specifies the taster. In any field where there is a substantial degree of aesthetic subjectivism—whether it’s movies or wine—always consider who’s doing the evaluation.
Does the taster’s aesthetic priorities correspond to your own? Are they consistently applied? Can you triangulate from their sensibilities and values to your own? Scores alone tell you none of this.
Next, never confuse tasting with drinking. Any sommelier (including this writer) can set up a series of wines that will absolutely convince you that one wine is better than another. Even the greatest wines can have a poor showing when shown with other wines. Why? Because great wines are often complex, yet subtle, when shown with more emphatic or big bold in-your-face wines they can appear thin or paltry.
Ralph’s point: Never fully trust “knowledge by acquaintance,” i.e., what you glean from a sample at a tasting. It’s worth something, to be sure. But at most, it’s only a guide to what you should further investigate, the better to achieve “knowledge by exposure.”
Monmouth Bottle Shop and Wine Cellar is setting up a new wine tasting area for customers and will be offering wine tasting flights in 2012.
Monmouth Bottle Shop and Wine Cellar is located at 201 Monmouth Rd, Oakhurst, NJ. Tel: 732- 531-3080
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