By Stéphane Beauroy January 31, 2014 Comments Off
QUINI_Illustrations_001_Is Wine Tasting Subjective?

Not as subjective as you might think. It’s complicated and often leaves the world’s best wine writers at sea. From them, you’ll hear taste is subjective, that your palate is the final arbiter. Saying that, wine writers get caught in a conceptual tangle as they fail to acknowledge that they’re also the critics telling you what’s objectively good.

(This is the beauty of the Quini wine tasting app – it lifts you above the waves of confusion about how to taste wine. Quini avoids the subjective/objective split and goes for accuracy and tracking of tasting preferences instead.)

Misleading Folk & Wine Wisdom

To cut wine writers some slack, we aren’t philosophers. However, when wine experts repeat the folk wisdom that taste is clearly subjective, we’re misleading everyone, including ourselves. In his 2013 book, The Wine Savant, wine maven Michael Steinberger ( finds trouble on this score: “I’m stating the acutely obvious here, but taste is personal, determined both by one’s biological attributes and by things such as experience, expectation, and culture, intangibles that obviously vary from individual to individual.”

Steinberger’s repetition of “obvious” to describe subjectivity telegraphs that it’s no such thing. And are “experience, expectation, and culture” truly “intangibles”? Couldn’t we unpack, explain, understand them, and think of them under the single label of preferences? Moreover, aren’t they shared? Some subjective preferences persist, but often, and over time perhaps, they’ll converge. This is why we drink with friends and even have favourite wines in common, as Quini will reveal.

Read Part 2 here.

Stéphane Beauroy

Stephane Beauroy

Stéphane Beauroy has an Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits from the WSET, and he’s writing a book on the philosophy, history and science of wine tasting. Stéphane believes we should improve our tasting accuracy before wine tasting robots outstrip and replace us.

See all of Stéphane's posts


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