Friday, July 30, 2010


I've long been of the belief that those with a distinguished sense of taste are somewhat cursed. Cursed to live a life spending much more money on luxuriant food and drinks than is ever necessary.

To some, the idea of a perfect meal is a well composed Big Mac, crisp fries and an ice cold coke, or perhaps even a chicken parmy with a pint of ale as a chaser. But to someone more like myself, the ideal gastronomic experience might involve something much more expensive; say, 8 courses, covering everything from lobster to foie gras, white truffle to wagyu, to Giaconda to Grange; just to garner the same amount of enjoyment others may find in a chicken parmigiana and beer.

It's ridiculous how many times I've spent over $100 on a meal in my relatively short life (there's another one coming up tonight...), whereas I still associate with people who consider $40 for a meal beyond reason. By the time I've passed, I'd hate to recount how much more money I would've blown on the extravagant side of food and drinks than others. Ah, where all that money could have gone.


To bring the idea of 'ignorance is bliss' into a wine context I'm comparing the opinions of 2 wines across 2 different people, each with differing wine experience.

For the first case I'm comparing the opinions of my close friend Casey and myself, in reference to an $80/doz cleanskin Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir we sampled together recently.

After tasting the cleanskin pinot Casey remarked;
"I like it Plummer. I'm buying two boxes. What do you think?"

Then, in my typical wine-snobberish manner, I responded with;
"Its palate seems unconvincing, forward, short and abrupt, and it's over-ripe."

Casey walked away with two boxes a happy man (still to this day, and he's nearly down to one box). Clearly Casey was analysing the wine in a simpler context to me, as I was probably looking too deep into a $7 pinot to gain any genuine enjoyment. Whatever the case, Casey found much more pleasure in the wine than I did.


For the second case I'm comparing my own review of Curly Flat's 2006 Pinot Noir, with that of one of Australia's most respected, experienced and influential wine writers; Jeremy Oliver.

Of the 206 Curly Flat, a line of my review reads;
'From within its great depth an undercarriage of meaty garden herbs begins to emerge, projecting superb length of fruit onto an already exquisite palate.' 96 points

While in Jeremy Oliver's 2010 Australian Wine Annual, a line of his review reads;
'There is however a thread throughout the wine of a light herbal presence and a hint of raisin, suggesting a slightly uneven ripeness.' 91 points

Amazingly, the extracts here point towards a very similar quality we both found in the Curly Flat, but how Jeremy Oliver perceived this character was completely different to me. In retrospect I can see how my 'meaty garden herbs' might equate to his 'slightly uneven ripeness', but by Jove I still thoroughly enjoyed the wine at the time. Obviously my ignorance, or failure, to detect uneven ripeness in the Curly Flat allowed me to enjoy it much more than Jeremy Oliver did (as evident by the scores), whose experienced wine evaluation skills allowed him to pick out a technical fault in a pinot I simply sat back and marvelled at in amateurish fashion.

Is fine sense of taste a curse?


  1. Interesting post. I have mates who are just like Casey. When you have them around for dinner a $15 wine will likely get far higher praise than the $50 wine you've pulled out from the cellar.

    I get the sense sometimes that JO's palate is far too refined to be relevant to the average consumer, but you have to nevertheless respect his ability to detect things that others often don't (particularly with smoke taint).

    I don't think a fine sense of taste should ever be a curse, more that you just have to accept that others just won't get what you are on about sometimes.

  2. I have to say Casey is probably one of the last people to appreciate a $15 wine more than a $50 one, but you obviously got my drift Red ;) And I certainly know many people like you've mentioned ;)

    In actual fact, (and this is probably what I should've wrote) both Casey and I had a similar opinion of the cleanskin quality and value wise, believing it to offer sound, reasonable drinking at $7 a bottle in a light, dry red sense, it's just that I noted it barely reflected its grape of origin; a concern which obviously didn't bother Casey at all. But in hindsight how many $7 cleanskin Adelaide Hills pinots are going to accurately reflect true varietal character?

    I have to agree with your last comment here too Red. With my acquaintances, about half of us are into this enjoying fancy food/wine/drinks, and the other half think we're nuts..... ;-}

    Indeed I don't believe a fine sense of taste is a curse too (contrary to what my bank balance occasionally tells me!), but I believe the finer gastronomic experiences in life aren't essential, they're luxury items, which are there to be enjoyed by those who wish to.

    Chris P

  3. How about throwing a spanner in the works... I appreciate and really enjoy fine food and wine - I usually shop at markets and refuse to buy meat and veg at a supermarket and I'll buy a $30 bottle of wine before I even look at $15 bottle. But at the same time, I can really appreciate a hearty pub meal and beer. I can also appreciate a cheap wine in its amateurish state. Regardless of its characteristics (or lack of), if it doesnt leave a bad taste in my mouth, then its ok by me. And sometimes, a expensive bottle is not always a good one! Really interesting piece though, enjoyed reading it!

  4. Very good article, and I love the Jeremy Oliver comparison. If I had a dollar for every time he has made the 'under and over ripe' call on a wine I would be a millionaire, though he is probably correct for most (only that I am happy to 'tolerate' this in about 50% of those wines!). He has a highly tuned palate that I can only admire (though not relate to!).

    As for cheap wines I can appreciate, I maintain that the 2008 Gran Sasso Montepulciano that is just about sold out in Australia was a fantastic wine for $10. If it was the Italian version of Yellow Tail, so be it: i liked it and it was perfect with pizza, pasta or even more expensive veal scallopine! :-)

  5. No. Oliver just got it slightly wrong. :)

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone. I'd also like to add that I don't think big Riedels work with Pepsi.