Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Editorial Issue 171, March 2018   
On the Uselessness of Sensorial TastingOn the Uselessness of Sensorial Tasting  Contents 
Issue 170, February 2018 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 172, April 2018

On the Uselessness of Sensorial Tasting


 Don't worry. I have not become crazy or lost my mind, I did not even change my point of view or, better to say, changed the way I am dealing with wine and how I consider it. The premise – I think necessary – is intended to reassure those who, by reading the title above, may have thought of a change of direction or a radical change in this publication I founded sixteen years ago. This is obviously a provocation because – as far as I am concerned – sensorial analysis and organoleptic tasting of wine is essential for understanding it. Not only from an organoleptic point of view, but also from an enological, viticultural and territorial point of view. The same is true, as far as I am concerned and which I certainly support with equal conviction and certainty, for any food or drink: beer, tea, coffee, olive oil, distillates, chocolate, cheese, honey, cooking, food, water and everything capable of giving a sensorial stimulus.


 

 The provocation, or better to say, this consideration, arises both from the questions wine lovers ask me about this topic, and from what I read in articles and comments published on the Internet or in some magazines. What surprises me – and, in any case, is surprising me less and less – is the critical opinion expressed by some, those who certainly consider themselves as “experts”, and see sensorial tasting as a useless practice reserved to beginners who obviously understand little or nothing about wine. On the other hand, they consider very competent and expert, telling a wine like a bucolic and rustic journey, a sort of dreamlike experience, which – in my opinion – tells about everything but wine. This may, at the very least, describe the subjective and very personal feelings and emotions a wine can evoke as a result of the tasting and that, as is well known, are strongly influenced by the state of mind, mood and other psychological factors. This is evidently something everyone knows about, however something not known by certain “experts”.

 Sometimes by reading what this “revered experts” write about wine, gives me sincere hilarity, especially for the intricate exercise of questionable style and the funny terms used. After all, what is a true wine expert if not someone capable of creating a fairy tale richly embellished with bucolic and romantic landscapes, where every sky is blue, boundless and clear, butterflies and bees happily fly on flowers in bloom, every princess makes her love dream come true and get married to the handsome prince? Talking about how much a wine stimulates the tactile perception of astringency and how this relates to the rest, or the analytic sensations perceived from the glass – do not joke about this – is something typical in beginners who know nothing about wine. These ones should be considered like poor ignorant, with the mercy usually shown to those who do not know and – woe is them – have not yet received the enlightenment of the revealed truth, the divine blessing given only to the chosen ones who are shown the Way, the wisdom and the absolute knowledge of Bacchus's secrets. Past, present and future, of course.

 For these apostles of Bacchus with a casual lexicon, reading that in a wine you can recognize banana, black cherry, almond, violet or clove, is a sacrilege of endless boredom as well as the indisputable sign of incompetence that is typical in beginners, impudent for having dared so much. Who knows what they would say instead, if the aromas of a wine would be described as isoamyl acetate, cinnamic acid, benzaldehyde, alpha-ionone or eugenol. That is by listing the chemical substances determining, in whole or in part, the aromas of the fruits, flowers and spices mentioned above. Anyone can tell a fairy tale, starting from anything – including wine – elaborating and developing every single element, also through metaphors, evocative constructs and rhetorical figures, until reaching the happy end. With the result, at least for me, of having talked about everything but wine: it simply is the story of the emotions and mood of those who have tasted a wine and from this get, by association, an image or a suggestive condition. In other words, it is a story created with the pretext of talking about wine without talking about it at all.

 These obviously are different ways of describing a wine, then – as always – everyone follows what they feel closest or similar to their culture, interest, objectives, skills and knowledge. Sensorial tasting – and not only of wine – is a discipline requiring concentration, commitment, study, practice, memory, experience, method and technique, to name just a few of the main elements. Above all, it is a discipline in which you never stop learning: every new wine represents – in fact – a world of its own that must be analyzed and understood. Nonetheless, there are no wines that taste the same and each one is different – often very different – from any other. Sometimes, even two bottles of the same wine have sensorial nuances or substantial differences. Of course, it is not a matter of starting from scratch every time a wine is being tasted: experience, memory and technique are always of fundamental help, however never enough.

 The surprising thing is that the ones who produce wine – wine makers – evaluate the result of their work through sensorial and chemical analysis. Yes, you read it right, even with chemical analysis, that horrible thing – so far away from the world of fairy-tales, unicorns and elves – the one done in a laboratory full of test tubes and chemicals substances. I have the privilege and the pleasure of knowing many wine makers and I have never heard anyone of them defining a wine with intricate, unrealistic tales, using rhetorical figures or an evocative language. Indeed, when I listen to them describing their wines, I hear them talking about methoxypipirazine, aldehydes, fixed acidity, free sulfur dioxide and anthocyanins. As they describe wine like that, could it be the case wine makers are just beginners who do not know anything about wine? I guess this doubt is legitimate, to say the least. They must certainly be subjects that, not being able to do otherwise for obvious incompetence, sometimes make reckless reference to olfactory perceptions – referring to flowers and fruits – just like any inexperienced or unaware beginner. That must certainly be the case. After all, tasting and sensorial evaluation of a wine – real experts say so – is boring and useless. Something to be considered, and with a pitiful compassion, typical in poor beginners who have not yet understood anything about the flights of butterflies in love and wuthering heights. It must necessarily be like that.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 171, March 2018   
On the Uselessness of Sensorial TastingOn the Uselessness of Sensorial Tasting  Contents 
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