At a wine tasting, in my humble opinion — and I could be all wrong — elitism can sneak in and ruin a good glass of wine.

I remember the first story I wrote about wine tasting experiences. I was suggesting that people should get over the elitist BS that goes with enjoying wine. Yeah, I just wrote BS, because that’s all it is to me. Case in point…

Being in a multimillion dollar home, back in the early 2000s, in Sarasota, Florida, Bentleys and Ferraris littered the front lawn. Mercedes were strategically placed in the driveway, so when people arrived, they’d be duly impressed. Servants were dressed in black and white, including white gloves; notwithstanding the fact that it would be hard to serve anyone anything in those awkward things. And the owner couldn’t wait to take everyone downstairs to show us his wine cellar… His attitude was pompous, but his wine cellar was incredibly simple. I’m betting that he hoped his local guests were less knowledgeable than he was, because he had one section that I spotted, which was filled with a brand of wine whose wines never even hit the $10 mark, unlike the cars on his front lawn.

This is the height of ridiculousness, and a dichotomy that just proves the point: It is better to simply enjoy wine for what it is, than to place it on some alter and spend your time in bragging pride… Pride comes before a fall.”

Enjoy the process of your own discovery and consider this the memo. Now you can’t say you didn’t get the memo.

Also, that same insecure group looks to others to tell them what they’re going to just “love.” This reminds me of something that my father once said to me, “Some day, you’re going to ‘love’ fish!” He told me that as he was force feeding me, I was gagging, and he saw that as an opportunity to get another mouthful into me. I think you can guess that fish will NEVER be part of my repertoire, at least not in this lifetime.

So, here’s one of my missions… It’s to respect what everyone likes, or doesn’t like on his or her own palate, because a palate is such a personal thing for any wine tasting. Something I’ve done along my learning curve is to get a sense of what others like, then I can base their likes against my own, as that knowledge gives me an idea of what I might, or might not, like. But, in the end, does that really matter, either, because I’m right back where I started… Everyone has a palate.

When I was reading “Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell, I came across the following and thought how this also relates to an experienced wine palate. We can’t expect to find all the details within what a reviewer has said within our own experience, because our collective experiences can’t be measured against anyone else’s. We can only enjoy what a reviewer said, and give it a try for a wine tasting comparison’s sake.

What caught my attention was a paragraph about how nonprofessional food tasters weren’t able to say why they liked or disliked jam in an experiment. The experiment was conducted in order to understand the difference between professional food tasters and people off the street (with different core abilities, right?).

“Jam experts, though, don’t have the same problem when it comes to explaining their feelings about jam. Expert food tasters are taught a very specific vocabulary, which allows them to describe precisely their reactions to specific foods. Mayonnaise, for example, is supposed to be evaluated along six dimensions of appearance… ten dimensions of texture… and fourteen dimensions of flavor, split among three subgroups… Each of those factors, in turn, is evaluated on a 15-point scale… Our unconscious reactions come out of a locked room, and we can’t look inside that room. But with experience we become expert at using our behavior and our training to interpret… and decode… what lies behind our snap judgments and first impressions. It’s a lot like what people do when they are in psychoanalysis: they spend years analyzing their unconscious with the help of a trained therapist until they begin to get a sense of how their mind works… All experts do this, either formally or informally.”

Aha! … either formally or informally… That’s the key, and I’m back where I started. Everyone has a palate for any wine tasting. Enjoy the process of your own discovery. And, in my humble opinion, with wine, elitism just isn’t necessary to enjoying a glass of wine.


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