Monday, February 07, 2005

The "pseudo-scientific tyranny of wine ratings"
Neil Pendock seems to have gotten into a right tizzy doesn’t he? He hopes that people like Roger Scruton will bring sanity to wine appreciation, which he believes as been "hijacked by Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and a band of sensory accountants determined to condense a glass of wine into a score accurate to the third decimal point". Scruton, who describes drinkers of Australian wine as morons, has very questionable ethics. Hardly the sort of personality you want beating the drum "against pseudo-scientific wine appreciation, with its dissertations and exams, faux-academic 'qualifications' and non-reproducible wine ratings out of 100".

What is pseudo-scientific about wine appreciation? As a scientist I’m almost certainly biased, but I find that the more attention I place on examining the color, smell and taste of a wine the more I am able to appreciate, or understand, a wine. The ability to appreciate color, smell and taste are attributes that the majority of us have, although not in equal measure; we can be grouped according to our innate ability. More importantly while novice wine drinkers may be able to say that they “like” a wine they are very often hard pressed to describe what it is that they “appreciate” about the wine. Experience, particularly in the ability to describe what is being ”tasted”, is part of acquiring true wine appreciation.

The question then becomes is such leaning a pseudo-scientific process? Well understanding the physiological processes involved is certainly not pseudo-science. The major organs concerned (eyes, nose, and tongue) are capable of amazing discrimination, although it may take training in order for any group of individuals to reach a consensus on, for example the color magenta, or the odor of lime; this happens, more or less successfully, in wine appreciation classes all over the world resulting in what Pendock would probably call faux-academic “qualifications”.

Why is it necessary for us to learn to appreciate wine? Well the simple answer is that not all wine is created equal. And while anyone can drink whatever wine it is within their means to obtain, why would they want to drink poor quality wine? After all there is an almost endless supply of wine and a new vintage almost every year. It is not so much a matter of tasting from one bottle to the next but deciding which bottle to taste! It is this step in the process that has people like Pendock and Scruton screeching from their pulpits, because it is here that the masses, who mostly want to have a nice bottle of wine with dinner, must rely on a few individuals who taste and pass judgment on countless thousands of bottles of wine.

Next: Which Sensory Accountant Should The Masses Use to Fill Their Cellars?
Meanwhile check out the link to a discussion of a 1,000 point scoring system.

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