Anyone who has known me for awhile knows my mantra: “You can’t drink a label or a price tag, or anyone else’s palate.” And I do hold these truths to be self-evident to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s first devotee of wine. Although it should be evident that not everyone shares the same taste in wine (and the same can be said for food, art, or almost anything else for that matter), this realization doesn’t negate the quality factor in wine. Not all wines are created equal. And I do believe they are not.
Some wines are endowed with greater body and balance, not to mention longevity and what the French refer to as a certain je ne sais quoi. Some are made from mature vines, grown under perfect or near perfect conditions, expertly pruned, hand harvested, and their wines crafted by men and women who understand art as well as science. Other wines spring from less favorable terroir, while still others are mass produced in an industrial mode and hardly receive the care and attention required to make the highest quality wine. It’s fine to drink such wines, if you enjoy them, but just as there is great, aged beef and then there is tough or overly fatty disappointing beef, the same spectrum of quality exists among wines. And we are not talking about preferring one cut of beef to another or having a preference for apples over pears. There is such a thing as good beef and bad beef, better quality apples and lesser quality apples, and most people can tell the difference when presented with the choice. In fact, the majority of the population could be professional wine or food tasters, given the desire, experience, and money to pursue such an avocation. Only about 20% of the adult population is estimated to suffer from serious palate or olfactory deficiency that precludes them from fully appreciating various scents and flavors in food and wine. All others are capable of considerable discernment. Yet, one person may prefer filet mignon and another hamburger. Who is to say one is better than another? Such a choice is truly a matter of preference and experience, not quality. The question of quality arises when the talk turns to good hamburger as opposed to bad hamburger, good Cabernet versus bad Cabernet, and the spectrum of quality that lay in between.
So in short, it’s good to like what you like, but sample as many wines as you can, and then ask yourself two questions. What is quality? And what is preference?
A Votre Santé!