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The Philosophical Approach to Tasting?

Wine students are well tuned with the Systematic Approach of Tasting (SAT). Using this cognitive approach, students (like myself) are taught to break wine assessment into three basic parts: Appearance, Nose, and Palate. Proper use enables you to quite accurately figure out the quality, origin and age of a specific wine. Essentially, SAT adds some “map sense” to the sea of wines, especially when you navigate, blinded, in it.

Within the SAT regime, you quantify, qualify, and most importantly, dissociate your judgment from whatever emotions you might have developed from that vinous sip. Thing is, what makes wines great to us may go beyond rational analysis. It might be that the wine was consumed during a particularly memorable occasion, say for example on your first date you happily enjoyed a Yellow Tail Shiraz with your date. SAT-speaking, it is at best an acceptable wine. To you, however, that might be the best wine you’ve ever had in decades.

How then do we reconcile the growing perception rift between wine students and connoisseurs on “great” wines? Let’s take things back to basics: Why do we taste wines, or fall in love with wines in the first place? Curiosity. Fun. Respect for nature’s great work. What binds wine lovers all around the world together is not so much a differentiation of their abilities to taste or judge wines. Rather, it’s a shared state of mind.

1. Stay curious: Why confine yourself to familiar styles? Adventure and uncertainty are simply two sides of one coin. Why hesitate in front of a New Zealand Waiheke Island’s Cabernet Sauvignon? It may please and surprise you (or not), but at least give it a try.

2. Be open-minded: You try some new (funky) stuff and you don’t like it. Before you go ahead and reject that specific wine region or grape variety, please remember that wines come at different price points, made by winemakers into different styles and mean for enjoyment at different stages of their life cycles. “No” to a 2009 Grand Vin de Latour? Perhaps a 2009 Cos D’estournel? Don’t turn your back against diversity.

3. Respect: True support comes with genuine respect. For winemakers, they do so by showing a respect for land and nature. Going organic and biodynamic is a clear trend nowadays. For wine sellers, they do so by showing a respect for their consumers and friends. Wines sold are of good provenance and at reasonable markup. For wine lovers, we do so by cherishing what’s in our glass. On the most basic level, savour and enjoy. At the very least, please don’t get drunk with wines.

The end is always about finding the one bottle that touches your soul

Wine tasting is a skill, a tool and a means to an end. By no means is it a pre-requisite to one’s passion for wine. The end is always about finding the one bottle that touches your soul, and this quest may or may not involve SAT. If you might qualify your love for your boyfriend, husband, girlfriend or wife by saying, “I don’t know, but I love him/her very much.” Then, why can’t a wine lover claims, “I don’t know, but this one’s just my favorite wine”?

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