A nice quote from 1947

I have an old wine book, recommended to me by a reader – it’s Ian Maxwell Campbell’s Wayward Tendrils of the Vine, published in 1947. It’s delightfully old fashioned, but quite an absorbing read (though far from the literary highs of Saintsbury’s classic Notes on a Cellar Book.) Here’s a quick snippet:

A taste for Claret is an acquired one. French children inherit it because, from early childhood, claret, with water added, is their daily beverage. Those of us who are not French generally have to go through an experimental period of fluctuating opinion. There is no need for me to say that this trial of the palate, and the more sensitive the palate the keener the trial, is applicable to many other good things besides claret. Oysters, caviare, marmalade, sweetbreads, beer, cheese and boiled eggs (but I think I was unlucky with these last when young) were among the articles of diet I once abhorred and had to learn to like. I succeeded!

4 comments to A nice quote from 1947

  • Nice piece. And it raises an interesting point about how your tastes change over time. Why is it that we need to acquire a taste for certain flavours, rather than enjoying them from the start, eg dark chocolate, whisky, very hoppy beer? One theory is it’s an evolutionary thing: humans instinctively reject bitter flavours as they’re associated with harmful things. But I don’t know. What do you think Jamie – and how have your wine tastes changed over time?

  • Yes, tastes do change – mine certainly have. When I started drinking wine I liked sweet fruit and didn’t like tannin or animal notes. I remember disliking crozes hermitage and I loved sweet, smooth Australian wines. Now I like much more challenging, savoury, distinctive flavours.

    I think we have an evolutionary liking for foods with high calorific content – sweetness and fat are both appealing. This is a hedonic appeal. And we find bitter flavours aversive for the reasons you point out.

    But we also have a capability for acquiring tastes: if we eat something that is bitter but it doesn’t harm us, then we can be drawn back to exploit this foodstuff that others won’t. Unless of course they have learned to. This learned appreciation could be selective.

  • Hi Jamie – I’m glad you got it! It’s a gem of the genre of gentlemans reminisences. He wrote a sequal which is as much about cricket as wine which you might like. It’s all Cristal Palace Cricket Club and WG Grace!
    As for flavours – I was introduced to Burgundy in the 1980’s and so I’m immune to Brett!
    Here’s to the old boy

  • Russell de Silva

    It’s also well known that the ability to taste bitterness declines with age, hence the aversion to foods/drinks containing bitter compounds naturally declines.
    No doubt the other taste buds are affected by age to varying degrees as well.

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