Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Am I qualified to give advice?

Yesterday I was asked THE inevitable wine blogger question.

Wulf (real name), is a friend of mine who happens to have an eclectic mix of subjects on his blog Down in the Den (!), from his jazz band & compositions, to gardening, programming, photography and religion. His latest theme is wine, so I thought I'd chip in, and quite naturally he responded by asking:

"...any advice about developing my palate for tasting and evaluating wine?"

Thoroughly reasonable question, but it fills me with dread. Whilst I like wine and know what interests me, I have no idea where to recommend others should start. I feel like I ought to ask hundreds of questions about his tastes in food & travel, his mood, his knowledge of history, what he had for lunch, ... all those things that in one way or another influence my own choices.

Of course, I did what any sensible blogger would do, and sent him to read someone else's blog (in this case a relatively new blog to me, called Wine Ministry where Rev. Jeff writes about wine with "a theological slant". Perfect!)

Why do I feel unable to respond to perfectly valid requests for advice like this? I guess it is that as you get realy deep into a subject, you become immersed in the nuances, things that for most people don't matter but make you "the expert". They don't care whether the white wine was barrel fermented. They just want to know if it will it taste nice. Will they like it?

But this is precisely the issue. I know that it makes a difference to the taste, but feel supremely unqualified to tell them whether they will like it or not. I know that I like it.

Do any other wine bloggers out there feel this?

The best wine bloggers, or wine educators for that matter, are not necessarily those who know the most, but are those who know how to communicate with those wanting to learn, without putting them off. Maybe this is why I prefer not to post tasting notes - I can't make myself believe it matters what I think about the wine. I'd rather tell you about the winery, the region or the country and if it appeals to you, let you choose to try it.

The great thing about blogging, in any subject but wine in this case, is that there are a vast range of blogs, and one or more are certain to have the sort of information that a reader, whether novice or expert, is looking for.

Now the only problem is finding them.

Of course, the simple answer, as I believe Alder Yarrow over at Vinography points out, is "Try lots of them".


Wulf said...

Your qualified advice was very helpful - WineMinistry seems to be right up my street.

One thing I have been doing a lot this year is learning how to critique photos for myself and others. For that, I have a starting point that consists of a set of questions (eg. what is the subject? how is it framed?) and a vocabulary (eg. depth of field, sharpness, bokeh).

I am seeking the same for wine so that, as I enjoy drinking it, I can understand and appreciate it more deeply and, over time, improve my ability to pick the ideal bottle for a given situation.

Anyway, thanks for your input.

Robert McIntosh said...

Great. Jeff seems to have similar ideas about wine to me so I hope you like it.

I will post a few more links and reviews of blogs on my blog in the near future.

Good luck with your exploration.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for your blog! I enjoy reading it. I was going to answer your question here, then it was getting long, so I decided to make a blog post on my blog.

Thanks for inspiring this blog post!

Wulf said...

I raise my glass to the fact that blogging makes it easier to find people willing to answer questions! Good health!