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MONDAY MANIFESTOS
05/12/2014
When Wine Review Becomes Metaphysics

By Stephen Eliot

It is the simplest of notions, and it is too often missing from the more heated discussions about wine these days; the simple idea that there are observable facts and that they do not change regardless of whatever cultural or political or self-serving lens that you might choose through which to view them.

I would not for minute suggest that wine criticism is based in hard science and fact, but, as Evan Dawson reminds us in his its recent article and in our pick as Best Blog of the Week, “What I Learned About Wine From Neil deGrasse Tyson,”1 the world of the wine geek can do with a periodic reality check.

Proceeding from the idea that when constructing beliefs, it is best to start with facts and evidence first, rather than the other way around, he takes on a few of the debating-point staples of the day from “natural’” wines to the inherent subjectivity of various scoring systems, and has the pluck to suggest that some things are true and that some irrefutably are not. “When facts conflict with beliefs,” he writes, “re-examine your beliefs, no matter the subject”, and, when the subject is wine, he has some useful observations.

Now, I do not mean to be at all dismissive of the very personal and interpretive side of wine appreciation, but it has always struck me that there is a little too much metaphysical meandering, when we make an attempt to describe the nature of true vinous beauty and what is and is not the right way to see any wine’s genuine worth. Such endeavors are fun and become ever more so when fueled by dutiful empirical sampling, and they will always be part of what wine lovers do, but it starts to get dangerous when one or another view of taste starts to take on the airs of absolute truth.

When it comes to wine, romance and fact are and will remain inseparably intertwined, but, as Mr. Dawson cautions, it is a good idea to stop now and then and make sure which is which.

1 http://palatepress.com/2014/05/wine/learned-wine-neil-degrasse-tyson/


 

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