Monday, June 9, 2008

Wine Tasting In Japan

Here in the west, the most likely image a person has of a wine-tasting gathering is that of sophisticated wine connoisseurs acting in a most dignified and reserved way, sniffing and swirling while adhering to every rule of etiquette. Or, some might picture Gary Vaynerchuk instead.

But whatever the perception, it is totally different from wine tasting in the east, particularly Japan.

In Japan, achieving consensus is of extreme importance, regardless of what is up for discussion. Failing to arrive at agreement among all parties is considered shameful and group members will go to great lengths to ensure that everyone saves face by being on the same page at the end.

Getting to that consensus is not easy, however. In a typical wine-tasting session in Japan, one person is appointed as the group leader and it is his duty to bring the group to a consensus. It is simply inconceivable for a leader not to do this.

Wine, being a highly subjective subject, presents all sorts of problems for groups when trying to find that common ground. Violent tactics may sometimes have to be employed to keep everyone in line.

Below are two video examples of just how difficult and thankless a task it is to be the group leader and to achieve agreement among group members, especially when they are not particularly cooperative. In the second video, we see what happens to the newbie in the group when the leader takes pity on him, but nevertheless has to enforce the group code.

Video one, showing how important it is to keep control of the tasting group (click here if you can't see it below):

And video two, where the newbie learns this is serious business (click here if you can't see it below):

The next time you are at one of your civil, westernized wine tastings, please take a brief moment to recall how it is done in Japan, and appreciate the difference.

Here's a link to the DVD at Yojimbo

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