Friday, February 4, 2011

I am OK. You are OK.

The dinner table is nicely set, lights are appropriately dim and the music in the background just couldn’t be any better. While all the guests sit down to celebrate his wedding anniversary, the host calls for vintage Champagne. A toast is raised and the evening promises to be full of culinary and drinking delight. As the conversations across the table get noisier and wine begins to flow like water, a handsome man in his late 20’s remarks how the wine in his glass is delightfully sweet with hint of leather and red berry notes. With this mention, the restaurant goes silent like a graveyard and looks from the fellow guests seem sharper than a surgeon’s knife. The young man talks loudly to himself thinking what he is guilty of? A sudden flash and he is back into the real world; a learned gentleman in his late 40s intervening and assertively correcting the guy- this is not sweet, it is the fruits that you perceive which make you talk like that! A moment of embarrassment for the young man but that fills up the ‘know it all’ monsieur’s chest with pride.

So who’s the culprit here? I guess nobody. It is simply the lack of empathy for the innocent chap who couldn’t articulate his passion in the manner as accepted within the wine brethren. In this world of wine connoisseurs, snobbery is often synonymous with knowledge which is an abnormal behaviour from a truly knowledgeable being. And with such experiences, the poor guy will only repeat in his near future what was inflicted upon him. It is here that we can benefit from what Eric Berne called the ‘Transactional Analysis’.In the incident above, it is simply an interaction of the ‘critical parent’ ego state of the experienced wine drinker with the ‘submissive child’ state of the young man. Appearing difficult in the first reading, a little in-depth analysis of the approach points out how at different times owing to one’s personality, a person’s variations in his emotions, actions and feelings affects/is affected by the way he deals with the world around him. The approach is easier understood than followed in real-life situations. If cautiously adopted, conflict, which in this case concerns wine drinking would be easier to resolve. In a field where knowledge levels vary tremendously and so do one’s preferences and choices, the concept becomes all the more relevant.

So while appreciating wine, is there a right way or wrong? The answer to a larger extent is No (again, my personal opinion).  Many of us are still in the ‘education’ stage or evolving into experienced tasters by trying those lovely bottles that exist out there. In many places including my own country, some people are still unsure if wine is an alcoholic beverage! “I could have drunk wine but it doesn’t give me the desired ‘kick’!” remarked an acquaintance. Even worse, as I vividly remember at one of the wine fairs back home, a cameraman greedily gulped down about 3 glasses of wines without breathing for a few seconds! To make matters more complicated (and instead of helping), we have some self-proclaimed ‘wine experts’ preaching what is good and bad in a wine. With the exception of a few professionals and educators already operating in this crazy world, people are making things unnecessarily complicated. If wine is a subject matter of individual perception, then why don’t we provide for some room for the poor consumer’s personal choice? Why can’t he/she decide what is good or bad? Basic sensory skills exist in all. And with more exposure (in this case tastings) and intervention through specialised inputs at certain steps from professionals, we can have a much more developed palate.  Coming back to India, if the government decides to be a little empathic to the cause by waiving off some of those crazy taxes and duties, there’s nothing stopping us Indians from becoming wine or even fine wine connoisseurs. Don’t we already see how those big vintners are queuing up at our ports waiting to share their prized possessions that are lying restlessly in those custom containers than cluttering up our retail shelves! It is harvest time (at least in the Southern hemisphere), so let us get out and pick our favourite grapes. Let’s resolve to shed the ‘know it all’ sheath that some of us have protected ourselves with and experience some lovely change!


  1. I shall defo drink up to the thought of shedding the snobbery attached to wines and all that jazz..
    and well done Mr. for ur TA work!..m well impressed!

  2. thanks Mademoiselle!I hope you are more comfortable the next time you pick up that crystal goblet to drink your favourite white or red!

  3. Once again, you impress me with your writing style and verbosity :) I feel there answer to 'is there a right or wrong way to taste' is ... a bit of both. To a certain degree there is a wrong way to taste/comment on a wine, but after a certain point, subjectivity comes into play and rightfully so. For example, if someone is smelling raspberries in a NZ Sauvignon Blanc ... that would most likely fall into the 'wrong' category. But if someone is saying a Burgundy Pinot Noir has ripe raspberry aromas but another thinks it is a fresh raspberry aroma ... neither of them can be 'right' ... they have entered the subjective realm.

    On another note, if I were in a situation where someone said something so completely 'wrong/off' about a wine, I wouldn't belittle them or publicly call them out. Instead I would casually question them about their findings/declarations and use their response to passively direct them in the 'right' direction. The goal being to get them to feel proud of their attempt and to show them that with just a bit of practice and education, their 'off' remark moves closer and closer to being 'right' and eventually they will enter that 'subjective realm' where their findings are more opinions and not necessarily 'wrong'.

  4. Great to have your opinion Ceci!The point you've made through your illustration has certainly given more words to what I had in mind. As I have written above,the answer to the question is No only to a large extent but not completely because the experience of seasoned/trained palates and also some professionals (with their vast experience)cannot be belittled only on grounds of the matter's subjectivity. At the same time,as you rightly pointed out,what also counts is the way this knowledge is disseminated!
    Merci beaucoup for your comments,keep them coming!