jamie goode's wine blog: Terry Theise on reductionism in wine

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Terry Theise on reductionism in wine

There's a great article in the latest edition of the World of Fine Wine. Well, actually there are many great articles, but the one I'm referring to is by Terry Theise, titled 'Wine and the unspeakable' (WOFW 20, p 128-131), and it's looking at the topic of beauty in wine in a thoughtful, slightly tangential way. It includes the following quote, referring to how a reductionist approach to wine often fails:
The idea of 'forest' is different from the notion of 'a lot of trees'. The notion of 'a lot of individual tones and pitches arranged in organized and pleasing ways' is existentially very different from the idea of 'music'. Landscape is different from the hills and rivers it might contain. There are wines that live in the whole - which is not only greater, but also other than the sum of its parts'.



At 5:34 AM, Blogger Edward said...

It's a nice quote, but what makes one landscape or one piece of music more special than another?
That's where some reductionism, or at least analysis is helpful.
The two - being able to see the whole as well as the components, go hand in hand. Both are poorer on their own.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Edward, couldn't agree more - I guess the reason I liked this quote is because our natural bias in the wine trade is towards reductionism.

At 9:11 PM, Anonymous IanB said...

I was recently looking through a number of older books, up to and including Hugh Johnson's first "Wine" edition, and it was really striking how much things have shifted towards reductionist thinking since then.

The better a wine, the more it speaks of its own individuality and place, but the more we obfuscate that nowadays by piling on ever-obscurer epithets. Is there, I wonder, a logical underpinning to all this? A move that presupposes wines will eventually cease to make such statements, or, at best, that such statements are quirky and will be eliminated in the glorious future?

The tragedy is that reductionism simply doesn't work. You cannot understand how atoms work by describing the properties of elementary particles. You cannot understand how molecules work by describing the properties of atoms. These things all possess emergent properties at the higher level. And so it is with much else including wine.

Draw your own conclusions...

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Salil said...

A lovely quote. I love Terry Theise's writings on wine (perhaps a bit too much, as each time I read any of his catalogues, my wallet suffers) and his approach to them.


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