I enjoyed your comments both here and over at the Squires Board.
Re: the above… can you flesh this out a little bit? What kind of a system do you envision? What would be the intended purpose of such a system, and who do you think would be using it?
There have been attempts at this in the past, among wine educators, wine researchers, etc.
One of the most successful to date (at least in terms of how widespread its use has become) is the Aroma Wheel developed by Dr. Noble at UCD. But that is a deconstructionist, production-oriented approach, of little use to those outside the world of enol-vit research. Noting that a wine has an aromatic profile of blueberry, wet dog, and smoke doesn’t real get you far in the real world.
While looking favorably upon a fresh approach to developing a workable system, I think it important to acknowledge the obvious concern that such attempts run the risk of restricting the ways in which we can talk about wine. The result is that the discussion of wine becomes overtly clinical, with possible negative consequences.
This really is a new field for me, but I will keep you posted as I research this and talk to colleagues. Most of the classification stuff, a la Ann Noble is more to describe the structure of wine and identify faults. I am looking to create something that will explain why you think one wine rates 98 and another only 90. To answer one point you brought up- we need to ask WHY (what purpose) a given person is rating wines.
The reason I post this as a new topic is that I added a potentially disturbing follow up note on my Squires BB post on DAVOS and am getting mostly ad hominem responses- interesting
Someone accused me of being an intellectual snob. My own definition of an intellectual is someone who hears the William Tell Overture and does not think of the Lone Ranger.
Agree with Keith - I think you will find a very interested and engaged audience here.
One thing that someone did post over there (on the Gilman thread?) was very smart - does it make more sense to look at consistencies and correlations (vectors, in a way) rather than what are essentially scalars in points?
I’m posting in this thread because it seems like it’s superseded your first one on the DAVOS conference. I was particularly interested in the following comment, but responding sort of slipped my mind for a few days.
I was pleased to see that many of the participants agreed with one of the theses of my lecture, which was that, due to the fact that taste and smell sensory information projects to emotional/memory parts of the brain, rather than the cognitive/language regions, it is very difficult and unreliable to express the sensory responses to a wine with numbers or words. Trying to describe a wine with words is like trying to describe a massage. Michel Bettane agreed with me that the ideal wine taster would be a telepath. Several of the wine tasters agreed with me that a more developed, codified system is needed to permit meaningful communication about wine. I’d be interested in hearing any ideas out there concerning this task.
You say you’re interested in a reliable way to communicate why one wine is perceived to be of higher quality than another. I am of course aware that this is a necessary task for the professional critic, but it interests me personally very little. I’m more interested in the relatively strict divide you appear to be drawing between the emotional/memory and the cognitive language parts of the brain. I’m not a cognitive scientist, but it seems to me that there is considerable interaction between these two areas and that language is not such a poor tool for describing sensory memories. It’s true that the words, “the scent of the first raindrops falling on a hot summer day” do not elicit a sensory re-experience of such an event actually happening. But it seems to me that when I experience such a smell, I can say to myself “ah yes, that is the scent of raindrops on a summer day”. The scent activates my memory of previous similar experiences, which I have cataloged linguistically. I don’t see why it should be different with, say, the scent of grapefruit being used as a descriptor for wine.
Now, there’s the obvious subjectivity problem: I have no way of knowing if my scent of grapefruit is the same as your scent of grapefruit, and therefore my using the word may not convey meaningful information to you. So it may be that my linguistic descriptors are only useful for me. But it seems that we use metaphorical language to describe wines in a way that is in fact able to communicate meaningful information to others. I’m thinking for instance of descriptions of the body or weight of a wine as light, medium or full. Does that not give us something we can agree on when discussing a wine?