Subjectivity of Wine

Subjectivity of Wine

An internal debate that goes on through my head day in and day out, is something that is quite vague but also questions the very purpose of my job – and that is what makes a quality wine?  The interpretations of flavors, sweetness, dryness, typicity, terroir, varies so greatly in the world.  As much as I try to stay completely objective, I would be lying to myself if I didn’t have pre-conceived notions about a wine just by looking at the label, the region, the distributor, the alcohol percentage (which is wrong about 95% of the time anyway).

To taste objectively, shouldn’t you compare that wine to what you’ve had before?  That also puts yourself in a pigeon-hold, because if I try a $20 Pinot Noir from California, you must see how that holds itself vs. all of the other $20 Pinot Noirs in the market place.  This leaves yourself in a position to compare to others, vs. appreciating what that wine is truly is! There are certain flavors we expect, due to a price, a region, or a grape.  Pinot Noirs, in my honest opinion, should be light, good acidity, and complex with layers of flavor.  There is a Pinot Noir that comes to mind, Belle Glos Meiomi, which is one of our biggest selling Pinot Noirs – that doesn’t fit any description that I feel like fits a Pinot Noir.  So, where does this leave the masses of drinkers who absolutely love this bottle of wine?  Does it make my palate better than theirs, or is my palate not as good?  I truly believe everyone has a good palate, and neither of us are right or wrong!  If I prefer a wine with minimal fruit, high acidity and aggressive tannins – that doesn’t mean that the person who loves a fruit bomb with loads of alcohol and ripe fruit/tannins has a worse palate.

I believe comparisons are a good thing, and to objectively taste and buy you must have other references that you use as your benchmark or a certain expectation of quality.  The qualities of a benchmark isn’t static, it is your own.