Friday, November 21, 2008

Connoisseurship: Wine, Cheese, Fish, but not Coffee and Beer

Just randomly noted recently that after many years, I have gotten to the point where I can actually start telling different wines apart. What they don't tell you when you start getting into wine is that really, without practice, most wine tastes pretty much the same. A random dinner table factoid I was told was that in a taste test, people couldn't tell the difference between red wine and room temperature white wine. After many years of diligent experimentation, with the help of the habit of earnestly trying to describe each wine, as encouraged by R-, I feel I'm starting to get there. Where, can replicate the tasting notes, a non-random amount of the time, can guess the grape, a statistically significant amount of the time, and can even have a guess as to what country the wine is from, or at least what continent. Of course, not really enough to justify the vast variety on the market, but getting there.

Thinking about it, I've come along way with Cheese and Fish too. Cheese, used to be cheese. It was either flat squares of processed American, or it was random unidentified cubes, or goat or blue. So now, starting to learn obvious ones, cheddar, and gouda, and monterray jack. Still lots to learn, but making progress.

Fish, even more so. Not too long ago, fish used to be either Salmon or not-Salmon. Now actually, I have a pretty good sense of most of the fish in the fish counter. I guess it comes from enough experimentation and experience.

Though I must say that on at least two fronts, Beer and Coffee, I haven't made much progress at all. Working on both, but still by and large, they all taste the same to me.

(Addendum, steak is something else I've started to figure out, with fillet vs porterhouse vs rib-eye vs flank vs chuch vs short rib having meaning for me)


James Lin said...

They all taste awful to me.

Is being able to distinguish between the wines actually a good thing? If a cheap box of wine tastes as good as an expensive bottle to you, what's the upside (other than the snootiness factor)?

HoBs said...

Nothing wrong with the snootiness factor.

I dunno. I guess I like diversity.

And more information is better than less. So being able to distinguish more flavors means less-entropy (higher Fisher information). And that's a good thing.

Or more simply, is it better to see the world in black and white, or in color?

Why eat different kinds of food, when you can get all the nutrition you need from rice and beans?

(the tasting awful thing also goes away with diligence. it took a few years of peer pressure induced college drinking for alcohol to stop tasting awful for me.)