Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Context of Wine

A recent issue of Newsweek took aim at wine snobs when it revealed that cheap wines outscored the high-priced ones in a blind tasting. For example, a $10 bottle of sparkling wine from Washington state outscored Dom Pérignon, which sells for well over $100 a bottle.

But as the NY Times' Eric Asimov explains,

. . . the results of the tastings are more nuanced than the Newsweek article let on . . . what appeals to novice wine drinkers is significantly different from what appeals to wine experts, which the book defines as those who have had some sort of training or professional experience with wine. The experts, by the way, preferred the Dom Pérignon.

. . . Yet the rating system has bred an attitude toward wine that ignores context, which is perhaps more important a consideration to the enjoyment of wine than anything else.

The proverbial little red wine, so delicious in a Tuscan village with your sweetie, never tastes the same back home in New Jersey. Meanwhile, the big California cabernet, which you enjoyed so much with your work buddies at a steakhouse, ties tucked between buttons, doesn’t have that triumphant lift with a bowl of spaghetti.

This is one problem with trying to judge wine in the sort of clinical vacuum sought by studies like the one in “The Wine Trials.” In the end, I don’t think you can ever eliminate context.

. . . Even in a blind tasting situation, wine is evaluated in the company of other wines, which is a different sort of context but a context nonetheless. Perhaps they’ve chosen the best wines to be sipped and spat out, but not the best wines for dinner.
Well stated. The entire article is worth reading.

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