Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Counter-intuitive Thought on Multiple Tastings

I've already discussed some thoughts about how drinking wine is both an act of creation and destruction.  This tidbit on Jim Laube's blog over at Wine Spectator got me thinking about whether you lose something from multiple tastings of a wine, namely the creation from a blank canvas as opposed to retouching an existing work.  Laube relates:
With wines, one reason people diverge in their opinions is that we have different perspectives. I’ve tasted most of these many times and have many different points of reference. For some of our editors, with a wine such as the ’68 Souverain, it’s perhaps a once in a lifetime experience.
I've thought about this topic quite a bit, especially as I've moved up the learning curve of the wine journey. The wine writers that I admire most have a gift for putting a wine into context, such that, even without the sensual experience of the wine, the reader can imagine what it is like. Those points of reference can be external indicia of the real (wet stones after a rain) or the theoretical (Satan's urine after eating asparagus). They can also be internal, such as with a vertical tasting or repeat tastings of the same wine. It is this last point that Laube is getting here and it is one that I often overlook. It is amazing how the first time we taste a wine we record every experience in minute detail, the second time we double check our impressions and note evolution and thereafter really shorthand as to whether the wine is consistent with past tastings. Said another way, we lose the wonderment of the initial impression and are left comparing it not with other external factors, but only with how the wine is supposed to taste. That is not to say one can't maintain the discipline of writing detailed notes on the wine, but the perspective is quite different. Laube's point then is that that change in perspective will immutably change our opinion of the wine. We will judge it differently for having tasted it.

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