I’m reading a new book on the philosophy of wine. It’s titled ‘The philosophy of wine: a case of truth, beauty and intoxication’, and it’s written by Cain Todd, a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Lancaster.
I’m not far enough through it to give my full review, but early on Todd spots an interesting pattern of behaviour by many of the leading wine critics.
Typically, when asked, they tend to say that wine tasting is subjective, and that the opinion of the novice or amateur is every bit as valid and significant as that of the critic or expert. With wine there is no ‘wrong’: like what you like!
This sounds wonderfully egalitarian and unstuffy.
I quote Todd:
In admirable haste to discharge accusations of elitism, obfuscation and snobbery, critics frequently lurch into proclamations of subjectivity that are directly at odds with their own implicit beliefs and explicit practices.
As Todd points out these same critics operate as if wine tasting were anything but subjective. They score wine. They value their own opinions on wine highly enough to charge others to access them, and to get into (sometimes heated) discussions about the merits of particular wines. This suggests they think that wine tasting is (largely) objective; that expertise makes a difference to the validity of wine assessment; and that there’s an expectation that experienced professionals should more-or-less agree in their assessments, even if they have different preferences.
So which is it? And what do the leading critics really believe?
NOTE ADDED LATER: I’ve just posted an article on this topic on the main wineanorak site.