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Lise Ciolino
September 2, 2018 | Lise Ciolino

Wine is like Art: You are the Expert

“Wine is like art: there’s no right or wrong!” It's advice I’ve given over and over. Yes, wine can be intimidating at times, but only if you let it. Every person has a different experience with a wine, and your unique experience with is what matters most. Just like art, you aren’t “supposed” to like a particular bottle. You are only supposed to have confidence in your own taste!

Recently, I read a New York Times article entitled “How to Fall in Love with Art”, which empowers readers to trust their own taste in art And every time I read the word “Art” in this article, I really want to substitute “Wine”! In fact, the author articulated the concept of getting the most out of wine much better than I could. Whether you are a novice or expert, Mr. McDermon’s words have some valuable lessons for all of us.

I want to share a few excerpts from this column that really spoke to me (especially since you may not be a NYT subscriber which is necessary to read the original article). WARNING: I’m quoting directly from the article, translating my own “wine” words in orange for the original “art” words (and deleting other words). For more fun, you should play with the translation back and forth between art and wine.

  • Wine can seem like a very complicated subject, but it all comes down to one thing: Your own reaction is the one that counts. There is no single right answer. There is no value in mouthing the conventional wisdom, or in taking the word of an esteemed critic as gospel and convincing yourself that you agree. Identifying your own reaction, in its emotional and intellectual and spiritual dimensions, is the whole point of the enterprise.
  • JUST TASTE. Don’t immediately rush over to read the label. Once you’ve found something you want to spend more time with, dive in. Don’t worry too much about whether it’s good or great or terrible. Just try to see the thing, from every angle you can, and take note of your own reaction.
  • Taste something you just don’t understand? Or really dislike? Try this:
    • Read the label. Here’s where text can be really helpful, giving you context that may change what you initially thought.
    • Figure out what bugs you about the wine in question and try to articulate a reason.
    • If something seems wrong, incomplete or out of place, ask yourself: How could it be improved?

Still hate it? That’s O.K.

  • You have permission to dislike what’s popular and to champion what’s unfashionable. And don’t fake it. Wine isn’t a competition or a test. There’s no prize awaiting you. If something feels gimmicky, or cold, or boring, and resists every attempt to understand it, here’s what to do: Walk away.
  • You may only really like about 50 percent of what you taste. But that doesn’t mean that the remainder is worthless. The value comes from engagement. It’s not about trying to rack up the highest score. The things you don’t like will teach you a great deal about the things you do.
  • Experts can be off-putting. Sommeliers, bloggers, and critics have all devoted themselves to the study and appreciation of wine. They spend years tasting, reading, thinking, writing and talking about it. They know a lot. But you needn’t feel cowed. The experts’ job is not to supply answers that you must commit to. They can instead help you, if you want, to come up with your own questions: "How was something made? What other wine is relevant? Is there a hidden story or a backing idea that isn’t apparent?"
  • Remember that an expert opinion is still an opinion. It’s not a judgment that you necessarily have to agree with.

Above all, remember that you alone are the expert on what you like!



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