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Thursday, December 06, 2007

It’s all a matter of personal taste.

Should one have to defend their taste? I imagine the question arose initially because another challenged their particular taste, for whatever reason that may have been. The subjectivity in personal taste is undeniable, and is perhaps what makes conversation about wine so dynamic and utterly fascinating. While there are lessons to learn on wine that are fundamentally objective, isn’t the subjectivity of one’s own taste a lesson that can only be learned through one's personal perception of tasting? How can something that is so inherently individual be right or wrong? Moreover, how can one’s perception of wine in general be incorrect? I agree, I disagree, there is no right or wrong in one’s taste.

It never ceases to amaze me how my elders (and there are several) love to teach, perhaps because I am so eager to learn and listen to those that have a body of experience that trumps my own. One proclamation that some of my elders bestow upon me that I can’t seem to buy into is that my expansive exploration of wine is a trek that is inevitably leading to a particular place....the sacred Nirvana of wine. Whether that place is Burgundy, which serves as a classic suggestion, or a grape variety or producer; I can’t believe that my sense of taste will narrow through experimentation. My sense of taste is not tantamount to a meandering virgin at a peep show, nor am I willing to believe that I am a lost vinous soul, lacking the vaunted recipe to unravel the identity of my own taste. I know what I like and what I like is great wine. That wine comes from various places, various varieties and was conjured by various faces. I agree, I disagree, there is no right or wrong in one’s taste.

One could certainly make a case that even the tiniest appellation can provide such abundant diversity that one could spend their entire lives studying it. While that is a valid and noteworthy point, there’s simply too much great grape throughout the vitcultural universe that make limiting one’s emphasis of tasting seem vacuous. Granted, I’ve found particular areas of focus, like the Rhone, that have had an undeniably striking affect on my palate, but I firmly believe that one wine region’s greatness can catalyze an intrigue that expands (rather than narrows) my intensity of exploration beyond that particular place. The pleasures of the Rhone have extended themselves to the Golden State, rekindling my enthusiasm for domestic wine thanks to the recent successes from inspired pioneers that settled the Central Coast. That particular exploration has unveiled that the Californian revolution extends far beyond the Rhone inspiration. Alas, all roads lead to….great wine. I agree, I disagree, there is no right or wrong in one’s taste.

I believe the only entity that is more mutable than a wine is the human that is drinking it. Even the stalest beings have fluctuating moods that dictate their behaviors, which I believe play a profound role in their perception of taste. Whether one’s mood is driven by the ambient or that which is internal, it is bound to change. The beauty of wine is that it comes in all the forms of a fun house reflection, allowing each mood’s diverse taste to be adequately satiated. Any dictator of taste that claims acidity is the only pulsating life blood in wine that need be referenced is certainly not a personality which I can identify with. Have you no desires for the warming pleasures that a heady, plump elixir can showcase on a piercingly chilly evening? That hearty flesh of carnivorous cuisine needs a partner. Should that partner be attenuated and angular? As for you, the slayer of the slender, the abhorrent of the acid, what say you on a 95 degree day when rummaging through the cupboard to foil your garden salad? Stay the course, w/ your favorite inky juice? Stout, w/ the bulging tannins of a sinewy linebacker that kindly assault your beads of sweat like fireflies? I am no dictator, but then again, I am not a masochist for punishment. I agree, I disagree, there is no right or wrong in one’s taste.

Does moving markets make one’s taste an absolute? Well, it certainly is welcomed by those that partake in the salesmanship it provides them, but should it define your personal taste? If you disagree w/ subjective authority, that does not render your opinion baseless. As for the 'super-tasters,' does having more taste buds make you a superior taster? Perhaps it makes you a more sensitive one, although I can't imagine their perception being anymore absolute. Seeing things differently is something to relish in, hell I can't help but enjoy a dramatic divergence in relation to my own perception. Those that have the most contrary palate preferences to my own often proffer the most pleasurable, instructive tasting experiences. Hardly agreeing, always enlightening. I encourage the outliers of the ‘written norm’ to speak up, especially when they have the audacity to proclaim “ripe fruit isn’t necessarily a flaw” and that “fruit is overrated!” In case you didn’t notice, I just threw Jay Miller under the bus (not to be confused w/ Jay Stuart Miller, his polar opposite and critic for the Wine Advocate). Sorry Jay, but you know what, your palate and opinion are undoubtedly unique and that is something of which I find not only interesting, but respectable (he happens to exude one of the least combative and most un-dogmatic dispositions that I’ve witnessed in the wine world). In this case, I do disagree, but there is definitely no right or wrong in Jay’s taste.

If you attack me, I will defend my taste as I believe my taste has merit. I find as much interest in your sense of taste as you do mine. All I can do is articulate my impressions and attempt to convey, in as transparent a fashion as possible, what breed the wine was and how it affected me. If the type of wine is one of which that your palate and current disposition find appealing, I can’t help but wonder if it moved you in such a way as it moved me. That’s why we taste and that’s why we talk about our experiences. I also believe that’s why winemakers make wine in the first place, and I can only hope to do them the justice they deserve when I write about their wines, for better or for worse. If they agree, or if they disagree, there is no right or wrong in one’s taste.


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