Monday, June 16, 2008

Do We Trust Our Eyes or Our Palate?

Question: If we did not know exactly what bottle of wine we were drinking, would it enhance or detract from our enjoyment of it?

Do we set ceilings on how good a wine can be based on our knowledge of which wine it is? So in other words, can a bottle of Two Buck Chuck only aspire to be only so good, whereas with a bottle of Screaming Eagle, the sky is the limit?

To a certain extent that is true, since the quality of the grapes and the time invested in the wine is necessarily lower for a mass-produced item like Two Buck versus something that costs hundreds of dollars, like “Screagle” as some call it.

And are people more forgiving of the premium bottle because it is expected to show better? There’s also safety in numbers; you can’t go wrong following the crowd and raving about a premium bottle. You’d raise a few eyebrows if you didn’t. Conversely, you can’t go wrong panning a bottle of Two Buck and would raise a few eyebrows if you fawned over it.

But inside of a brown bag, how much difference could we really discern? Certainly we would note differences but would it be correlated to the price or rarity of the respective wines?

I was looking at the reviews on Cellar Tracker for Screaming Eagle and the scores are pretty darn high overall. But in several cases the notes don’t seem to support the scores. For example:
The lightest and most mature looking of all the wines. Very delicious and sweet but a bit simple in comparison to the rest of the wines. Very sweet with Asian spices, violets, black cherries and sweet smoke. It was fat and soft but still lively. Delicious and sweet, very hedonistic but could have used a bit more structure. Certainly not the best Screagle we’ve had. Long delicious aftertaste but some heat and a touch too much vanilla.
It’s a favorable review, to be sure. What point value do you think was assigned? Answer: 97. ..simple in comparison to the rest of the wines; ..could have used a bit more structure; and, ..some heat and a touch too much vanilla. To improve on that leaves room for a score of 98,99 or 100. Would a Cabernet from a different producer with the same notes fare as well point-wise?

Is the picture at the top of this page appreciated for its intrinsic value or because it was painted by Picasso?

This reminded me of an article I read a couple of years ago about a little kid who stuck a wad of chewing gum on an abstract painting at a Detroit museum that was valued at $2 million (the painting, not the gum).

Actually, I got a good laugh out of that one, imagining that people who even noticed the gum probably thought it was an integral part of the painting.

By the way, that isn’t a Picasso painting at the top of this post. It’s from this page.

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