Paris in person wine tasting guide
It seems rather pretentious proposing a wine guide and labeling our company name on it. After all, there are many oenologues in the world, a good number of them on line. You can find a lot of wine tasting guides on the internet, so you may think that it is quite redundant proposing yet another one. We do obviously disagree, as we do feel that we can offer an original perspective of the experience and offer you something that possibly no other wine tasting guide (or a wine tasting) would.
Thing is, most of Paris in person crew is involved in the domain of the history of visual arts and one member is a scholar in the field of literature. This is significant – we all come from the domain of humanities and one of us specifically from the studies of comparative literature. This means that all of us, and especially one of us, have the heightened ability to recognize, appreciate and understand the power of the narrative. How does this relate to a wine tasting experience, you might ask ? Quite simply, the experience in question is – as many (if not all) things are, a narrative. It has its structure, its arc, the elements that exist separately on their own yet placed together in a right manner synergically create a whole that is larger than its sum.
Still, you may ask, how does this relate to wine, and concretely to wine tasting ? We know that the wine tasting takes years of practice, a lot of learning, training your palate, avoiding spicy food, a vast amount of trial and error and last but not the least, a natural sensitivity of the tasting and smelling apparatus. That is all truth – otherwise, being an oenolog would not be a recognized profession nor a degree you can legitimately obtain. But, and this is one big but (no pun intended) most of that work falls deeply in the realm of the subjective. Whereas in a wine connoisseur tasting guide/professional oenolog school you can learn a lot in a streamlined, structured manner (a major difference between autodidacts and classically trained people in any discipline), the truth of the matter is, you can’t really do a lot in terms of your palate proficiency. What you are born with in terms of sensitivity is mostly what you will have to the end of your life, bearing some freak accidence or a lifetime of smoking cheap cigarettes (or smoking at all). Good common sense dictate that you will have a more perceptive palate if you don’t violate it daily with cigarettes, tabasco sauce and chips ; but apart from that, you can’t really do much.
The fact is, the human tongue and the palate in general can only tell the difference between four major tastes. That is it, when it comes to the perceptive, physical part. Here we are getting to the narrative part and its (awesome) importance – everything else you feel while you are tasting wine, or anything else for that matters, you read in. It is influenced by a number of factors – from what you’ve learned, to what you’ve heard, a complex system of attitudes, prejudices, experiences you’ve already had, your cultural, social economical background etc. Not being able to know all those factors for each of you individually, we will focus on the aspects of the wine tasting process that do influence the overall experience but are rarely honestly mentioned on any wine tasting – we’ve been to a lot, and organized a lot, so we know.
We already mentioned that we entered the gourmandise scene (and the entire guiding scene really) from the field of chocolate. Back in the day, reading a lot about the different dark chocolate bars, we’d traverse the different sites that would have professional and amateur tasters alike. On seventypercent.com, for example, you have different reviews for the one same bar. So a one reviewer would state that tasting that particular bar you can sense caramel, toffee, vanilla, flowers, salt and cinnamon ; the other one would, for the same bar, say that you can taste cherries, liqueur, wood, rope, freshly mowed grass, apricots etc. This is not an exaggeration. However, their notes would tent to be roughly in the same register. So we said to ourselves, something is off here. Thing is, the context surrounding a certain bar – its price, package design, reputation of the maker – would decide its ranking and then the taste experienced would just be a fancy of the degustation running wild. The same happened when we developed an interest in whiskey – the reviewers would all feel very different tastes but would generally agree on the overall note with small margins. The same off course with wine. Also, and let’s be honest here, there is a lot of snobbery involved. Some reviewers will number from ten to fifteen different tastes they managed to experience from a single chocolate bar, glass of whiskey or a glass of wine. They will tend to privilege showing their ultimate sophistication rather than giving you an honest opinion and a useful info. Now, you can say that we are jaded by our reduced palate and are jealous of other people’s extended perception, but that is not the case. Most of us speak from 15+ years of experience, the time we had to meet a lot of people and taste a lot of things. This is solid, no bs info. You can google wine tastings and discover that in many of those tasters doing blind tests sometimes were not even able to tell if they are drinking red or white. And we already covered a quite famous event where the top wine connoisseurs of France could not tell the difference between the French and the Californian wine.
Yes, these guys again. Photo taken from www.npr.org
So, to go back to the topic, this is the list of items we will consider when it comes to wine tasting:
– label and bottle design
– origin and story ( the region where it comes from, the status of the wine)
– most importantly, and a synthesis of the previous, the autosuggestion that plays out as a key factor
The price is the one thing that plays a decisive role but will never be overtly mentioned as such on wine tastings. But c’mon, honestly, are you going to give the same amount of attention to a wine that you payed 5 € (or $, or £, or whichever currency you’re using) and the one you payed 500 €, or 5000. Off course not. If you buy something for 5, you will drink it with lunch or dinner and pay no mind to it. If by any extraordinary chance it happens to be a Chateau Yquem bottled as a regular Cadillac, you’re likely not going to notice (the chances of this happening are 0 so we can safely make this assumption). So, being aware of the price and its decisive influence on the tasting experience is the first thing. In the post that is to come (eventually) we will address the crafty art of getting a great wine in every price range, from 5 to 50 €. Make an experiment if you will ; take a run-off-the-mill 5 € bottle and imagine that is a bottle of Petrus, Chateau Margaux or even Romanée Conti. Taste it as such, with adequate reverence – try really hard to give it respect it deserve (in that little pretend game) and you will be surprised. We guarantee it. Now imagine how far that goes when you know that you are drinking something exceptional.
Label and bottle design are often overlooked yet very important aspects of the experience. Colors, fonts and shapes do play an important role. However, the actual judgment of this is somewhat tricky as there are some wines that deem their brand that important that they don’t really have to invest in design. Romanée Conti is one such example, as is the every wine from Vosné Romanée. Everything is quite basic and where it is supposed to be, but no design flights of fancy are there to be detected. They are aware of the fact that the very power of those words (Vosné Romanée and especially Romanée Conti) are enough to leave an impression. On the other hand, Petrus has a superbly designed label where it’s clear from the get-go that you are in front of a great, even legendary wine. But, you know, Petrus also tends to cost ten or twenty times less than Romanée Conti. So there’s that. Still, if you’re a design enthusiast, and you well guessed that all of us here are, you can navigate through these well-made labels and these ‘we’re too good to care about design’ labels. After a while you get a feel for it.
Origin and story are possibly the most important factor of them all. We say this not only on the account of notoriety of a certain wine, but also, very simply, on account of instructions. If on the very bottle (or on some site, or on a note left by the sommelier) you read that the wine tastes like blueberry and currants, with a finish of cherries, you are likely to feel those things as you will actively be looking for them. Autosuggestion is a very strong factor, and this is especially present in wine tastings. Again, we ourselves do wine tastings (send us an e-mail here if you’re interested in one) but we always honestly highlight this factor. What you read from a bottle, you are likely to follow, especially if it is a very well known wine with more than a hundred and fifty years of tradition (classification de 1855). Intuitively, and especially so if you are not a connoisseur of wine, you are not likely to confront yourself and the overall combined experience of every relevant wine producer and consumer from 1855 to now, so you comply. Our suggestion always is, try to feel and experience the wine before knowing anything about it. Then taste after having found out. Anyway, a red wine is always better with an Auxerre escort. The experience will be different – we guarantee it.
To conclude, and properly contextualize this story (another narrative, yes), we are not saying that everything regarding wine is a product of your imagination and autosuggestion. There are certain facts that are beyond fiction – Bordeaux wines tend to be very smooth and elegant, whereas Bourgogne (Burgundy) wines tend to be rich and robust. There is off course a difference between a 5 €, a 50 € and a 500 € bottle (however, the higher you go in price, paradoxically, the difference tends to be less visible, and is in fact most remarkable in the lower registers) But a lot – and we do mean a lot – of the experience of wine tasting is in your head rather than on your palate. Knowing this, being aware of it, you can ultimately enjoy more, and get more out of each bottle – which is the whole point to begin with.