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'You are always right'   

I was chatting to Simon Woods at a tasting today. Simon is a very good wine writer whoís been at it much longer than me, and I asked him how his latest book project was coming on. Called ĎI donít know much about wine, but I know what I likeí, itís a slim volume targeted at wine newbies and is due to be published in November Ė an ideal stocking filler at £4.99 (Mitchell Beazley).

The reason I mention this is because Simon revealed that the first chapter is entitled ĎYou are always rightí. This got me thinking. I think heís onto something here. Dear reader, no matter how inexperienced a wine taster you are, you are always right.

The qualifier is that you are always right as long as you are assessing a wine for your own purposes: if you were to turn up at a tasting and said with conviction that a white Burgundy was from Alsace, or you pontificated loudly that a £3 Cava was a more complex sparkling wine than Krug, then it would be fair to say that you would be wrong. And people will think badly of you.

But if you say that you prefer a fruity but simple Beaujolais to first growth claret, or Australian Chardonnay to Montrachet from a good grower, then Iím not going to argue with you Ė you are right. After all, itís your palate, and palates both differ among individuals and change with time. We all live in quite different taste worlds, and our own taste worlds change dramatically with age and experience. For this reason no one can tell you what you Ďoughtí to like.

Consider the foods you used to like as a child, that you really arenít keen on any more. And then think of some of the flavours that you didnít appreciate then, but which are among the most compelling for you now. I can think back to how difficult it was to drink that first half-pint of beer, yet now I love the stuff. Iím also struck by how the wines that appealed so much to me when I first became interested in the subject arenít ones I care for terribly much now. Yes, my tastes have changed, and are probably still changing now.

What does this mean if you are new to wine? First, that you are right, now. Your tastes will change, and youíll be right then. But beware of stocking your cellar too full with things that grab you at the moment, because you might not be as keen on them in 10 years. And do expose yourself to a variety of styles and types of wine, to give your palate freedom and space to evolve. If you get the chance, Iíd also recommend Ďbenchmarkingí with the accepted classic wines, to put some landmarks on your taste maps. Finally, do buy a copy of Simonís book when itís out in a couple of months Ė I havenít seen it yet, but Iím sure it will be a good read.

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