Sunday, August 16, 2009
A NEW JUMPING-OFF POINT
Saturday, I was reading a post over at Good Grape by my blog/Twitter friend Jeff Levefre on the content of tasting notes, and how he basically says, “they all suck.” Indeed, when you read a review in Wine Spectator, or hell, even on this blog, you get the standard cursory tasting jargon that we wine “professionals” learn to recite and regurgitate on a daily basis, usually alongside some quantitative figure meant to rank the wine in question in terms of quality. But how do you honestly justify such an arbitrary act when tasting wine is a personal and entirely subjective experience, much like surfing, riding a bike, playing catch with your dog, or making love to your significant other.
The short honest answer is that you can’t. What the so-called wine critics “attempt” to do is convey their “opinion” in the guise of a number, and an eyewitness account of the event in which they have just experienced. Anyone who watches any Law Enforcement reality show is that any event is subject to different personal interpretations.
There are so many outside influences that can affect what a person tastes in a wine – Did the reviewer just brush his/her teeth? Did that person just have breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Were they ill? Was someone in the room wearing too much perfume/cologne? Was it a hot day and the person next to the reviewer sweating profusely? Did they serve a Mexican brunch prior to tasting and someone was feeling a wee bit flatulent?
You get my point.
The debate back and forth as to the relevance of the wine review is never-ending. Yet no one seems to want to put the review in context of the experience, and at least attempt to paint a more multidimensional picture of the experience, if that is even possible. You can certainly get all esoteric on your readers and concoct a diatribe worthy of the Beat Poets or my man David Foster Wallace, but is that any better than the straight-up, as-if-written-on-a-cereal-box description that is standard for the critics today?
Well, thanks to the many who have been debating in slight vitriol the substance of the review and the relevance of the score, I am going to work on perfecting my more abstract depiction of my own tasting experiences, in the hopes of finding a better way to illustrate what each wine’s possibilities or limitations could be. Maybe you will garner some insight from them. Maybe you will come away even more confused/irritated/unmoved by them. Maybe you will think me even more daft and obtuse than anyone else out there.
I think that as writers of the New Age, we have something to say, and something new to add to the adventure of wine. We are standing on the precipice of something completely different. I’m in for a bit of base jumping, how about the rest of you?