Wow. It’s been a long time. I feel like a guest blogger. Richard’s been doing a great job during my long sabbatical.
An article appeared on io9 yesterday entitled “Wine Tasting Is Bullshit. Here’s Why.”
The article cites multiple studies and anecdotes that prove the lack of objective science in the rating systems for wine tasting. This is not new knowledge. We all know that “taste” is subjective in all its meanings. Everything is different for everybody all the time. We’ve never said anything different on this site. We don’t even claim to be experts. Just enthusiasts with bad memories, so we have to keep a blog of our endeavors or else lose them forever.
Richard once played a trick on me. He sent me an unlabeled sample and asked me to guess what it was. Based on it’s color, I thought it had to be bourbon. So, I approached it as if it was bourbon. The flavor was great, but it was somehow wrong. Was it some strange bourbon aged in wine casks? Was it a single malt from some obscure region, left to age in a barrel long enough to have the color of bourbon? What is the origin? On the slab? Off the slab? New York? Oregon? Gallifrey? I knew it was whiskey. I wanted it to be whiskey.
It was brandy.
After years of tasting, the first test I received and I failed miserably. I will admit that I’ve tasted peat where the distiller claims there is none. The same with Sherry. Does that make my tastings less authoritative? The truth is, they were never authoritative, because they are (and always will be) subjective. Even for those who train their palates and immerse themselves in whisky tasting, things change. Some days, I can’t stand peat. Some days, it’s all I want. I sometimes taste bananas when I drink the Balvenie or Belgian beer. I will forever associate the smell of Jim Beam with frat house vomit. And the list goes on…
What I’m saying is this: every review we (I’m using the universal collective “we” here) write is tempered by every experience we’ve had. There are environmental factors to each specific sitting. There is what we know about the distillery. There are our expectations and a thousand other factors. So read the reviews, taste what you can taste, and drink what you like.
The most interesting bit of the io9 article is at the very end, where it shows an inverse relationship to price and enjoyment for the average wine drinker. Do you, dear reader, think this is true for whisk(e)y as well? I know we often adjust our ratings based on something being perceived as over priced, but does that mean we enjoy it less?