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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wine Tasting -- The Inexact Science

Art, movies, books, beer, wine, etc. There's really very little objectivity to knowing what's good or not so good, but there are lots of opinions. People struggle with finding that line between objectivity and subjectivity in wine. This is mostly a problem for people who want to rate or score wine. The regular consumer just wants to know if they like it or not.

Why is it such a problem? Because everybody is different. And every situation is different.

The Ten Point Scale

In the "old days" there was a ten-point scale to rate wines. This was a technical rating looking for wine flaws. If the wine had an off smell or taste you took away a point. If the color was wrong you took a point. Nowadays these kinds of flaws are rare and almost every wine would score a perfect ten. This was the closest thing we had to an objective rating system.

Hundred Point Scale, Gold Medals, Etc.

There is a bit of the old ten-point scale built in to the 100-point scale where if a wine is flawed it may score "only" 80 points. But after that it's almost entirely subjective. So if it's only one person's, or a small group of people's, opinion then what's it mean to you?  Good question. I don't mean that all judging is wrong, just that it may not be right for you.
These guys might do just as well
at picking a wine for you ...

What's the Best Wine?

I've been asked this a lot and in many forms. What's the best wine you guys make? What's the best winery? It's impossible to answer and I don't think I should even try. Can you imagine walking into a car dealer and asking, "What's your best car?" or telling a real estate agent, "I want your favorite house."

Acid Sensitivity

Everybody is different. One place where this shows is with the sensitivity of your palate to acid. Sauvignon Blanc is a higher acid wine. Most would describe a typical SB as refreshing (acidity can be mouth-watering). Others will call the same wine sweet (low sensitivity to acid). A few actually call it sour (very high sensitivity). It's the same wine, just different people.
... as these guys

Oak Sensitivity

There are professionals that have done oak sensitivity studies with wines. Like with acid, people react differently to the oak in the same wine.

Acid and oak are just a couple areas where people perceive the same wine differently.

The Situation

This one I've experienced many times. I'll have a particular wine in one situation, lets say during the daytime in a tasting room. Within a few days I might have the same wine at home in the evening and it's different than I remember. 

The time of day makes a difference as your palate is generally more alert in the morning and may be tired in the evening. Also, what you had in your mouth before will change what you are tasting now. I believe some folks that may find a wine too acidic, for instance, might find it just fine at another time.

So Many Varieties, So Many Styles

The good news is there are lots of different types of wines made in lots of different styles. Finding what varieties and what style within each variety is the journey. Do you like buttery Chardonnay? Do you like jammy, red fruit Zinfandel? Do you like lean Pinot Noir? There's no right or wrong answer, only what you like (and can afford).