Embracing subjectivity in taste

I think a lot of wine enthusiasts, professional and amateur, might be willing to admit that taste is subjective, both at the fundamental level I discussed in my last blog post, and in the sense that we all have different preferences when it comes to wine.  But they are uncomfortable with this subjectivity.  So they try to put aside personal preferences when assessing a wine and strive to do it as objectively as possible.  The skill may have come as professional training where they will have learned how to recognise a good wine, or it might have been acquired informally by understanding what other people like.

This professional objectivity is often the only appropriate attitude in the trade.  If you are buying to sell to others in a shop or restaurant, you have to try to predict how your customers will like the wine.  And I do the same if I am selecting a wine to serve to guests.  Whether professionally, or on a more domestic scale, one needs to consider both what is regarded as good in the wine world, and what the average punter actually likes to drink – they are not necessarily the same thing.

But critics and wine writers should I think work at a level higher than this notion of professional objectivity.  They should dare to assert their personal preferences, and feel comfortable about criticising wines liked by the trade in general.  They should be setting trends, not following.  I say it not only because I think it demeans the role of the critic to aspire to an objectivity that does not exist, but also because I think it increases the chance that they will really connect with their readers.

Needless to say, I also think that wine enthusiasts with no professional involvement should also embrace subjectivity and see it as a positive thing.  I certainly do.

About Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast
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