Expertise is underestimated by those who don’t have it


It’s a strange thing, but we often have a tendency to dismiss expertise, when that expertise is outside of our own field, or our own reach.

I’ve noticed this with talented trade journalists who have come into wine from the outside. They’ve often written astutely about the business of wine, but often they carry with them a cynicism about wine expertise, especially at the highest level. It’s not something they’ve experienced themselves, so when they look at wine geeks debating the nuances of Bourgogne’s 936 climats, they dismiss it as nonsense. 

I’ve experienced the same feelings in other fields. Back when I used to play a little golf, I remember a keen golfing friend taking me to Sunningdale, his club, for a round. This is a proper course, and he was a proper golfer. I was the sort of golfer who could hit the occasional great shot, but who also peppered a round with some absolute shockers. He was fussy about the ball he used, while I’d use any ball, even ones I found in the rough. Was he being fussy? I thought so at the time, but now I recognise he had the sort of skill level where the way the ball would come off the face of the club was something he could feel. 

Another parallel is music and guitars. My main guitar is a Martin D15, and I chose it by going into a guitar store in Madison (Wisconsin) and trying perhaps 30 different acoustic guitars with a friend. Of all the ones I tried,, this sounded and felt the best. And I already had a really good guitar (Takamine EN10, which I bought as a student). Today I was in London and I bought a mandolin – I’ve owned a few, and they’d been OK, but today I went and tried a bunch, and this was the best. Now, to a normal person who doesn’t play, they might not spot the difference. But as someone who plays a lot, I just know when an instrument is really good. It’s clear.

I think the same is true for wine. When you have true expertise, earned the hard way by lots of practical experience and a degree of talent that has been applied well, you know. It might not always be easy to communicate it, but it’s often clearer than people without this expertise realise. 

Be careful before you rush to judgement on those who make quality calls from a position of of expertise. Often, they aren’t just making it up, even if it seems that way to you, and you are tasting the same wines.  

Reminder: this blog is irregularly updated, but there are daily updates on the main wineanorak site.

wine journalist and flavour obsessive
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