The Four Pillars of Wine Appreciation

pillarsIs it possible to cultivate a satisfying and in-depth appreciation of wine without sharing that appreciation with others?

This is what I wondered as I sat on a judging panel this past weekend with others and evaluated entries in the Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition. Would an appreciation of wine cultivated in isolation provide anything close to the same level of satisfaction were that appreciation cultivated without comparison with other palates, the impressions of others or the opinions of other wine fanciers?

Initially I thought, really we need only three things to cultivate our love of wine. Initially I thought the Pillars of Wine Appreciation could be described thusly:

1. Regular exposure to different wines
2. Feet on the ground in wine communities
3. Access to wine knowledge accumulated in literature.

You can’t love it without tasting it. You can’t know it without seeing it. You can’t internalize its meaning without educating yourself. So there they are. The three pillars of a life with wine.

But then it occurred to me. One simply can’t know or trust their own palate and impressions of wine without comparing it to the palate of others.

Are those tannins really harsh? Is the acid in a wine really lacking in the way your palate tells you? Is the rubyness of the wine’s appearance really as Ruby as you think it is? Is the joy or exasperation with a wine warranted or have you been overcome by something that may not really be so forceful in its impression?

We can’t approach this kind of knowledge without comparisons come by through deliberations with other palates. And we have only one.

The three pillars of wine are really four, with the fourth being:

4. Conversant Camaraderie With Other Palates

As always, judging in a competitive setting alongside other palates is an exhilarating experience. Each wine gets discussed, graded, categorized and judged through a process of collaboration with other palates. And by “palates” I mean minds and personalities and histories.

7 Responses

  1. Thomas Pellechia - July 2, 2013


    You think a lot.

  2. Dwight Furrow - July 2, 2013

    That is a great point. I’ve found collaborative tastings to be the most instructive. But, on the other hand, when blind tasting and trying to identify varietal and region it can be a challenge in collaborative settings to maintain independent judgment and not be misled by what is going on around you.

  3. barnaby33 - July 2, 2013

    In the way we as Americans currently enjoy wine you are correct. There is a competitive nature to learning about wine, as if the expertise confers social status. In that realm you almost certainly could not do it yourself, since other perceptions frame the competition. At it’s root though, wine is a beverage. The sagest advice I ever received was from a Som who said, “drink what you like.” If that is all you want from wine, then you absolutely can do it completely on your own. How many of us can claim our own enjoyment as our sole motive? I can’t.

  4. Michael Ronnie - July 2, 2013


    I have read and loved your blog for well over 2 years. Thank you for all that you do and provide. Hope to see you over in my neck of the woods…Forestville/Healdsburg sometime.
    Lunch and drinks are on me amigo! 707-342-5733 Lets hit Mateos in H’Burg OK?

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