Wine Experts Frauds?
Jonah Lehrer points to repeated experiments showing that wine “experts” have almost no agreement when conducting blind taste tests, are completely influenced by the labels on a wine bottle, and can’t even distinguish white wines from red!
What these experiments neatly demonstrate is that the taste of a wine, like the taste of everything, is not merely the sum of our inputs, and cannot be solved in a bottom-up fashion. It cannot be deduced by beginning with our simplest sensations and extrapolating upwards. When we taste a wine, we aren’t simply tasting the wine. This is because what we experience is not what we sense. Rather, experience is what happens when our senses are interpreted by our subjective brain, which brings to the moment its entire library of personal memories and idiosyncratic desires. As the philosopher Donald Davidson argued, it is ultimately impossible to distinguish between a subjective contribution to knowledge that comes from our selves (what he calls our “scheme”) and an objective contribution that comes from the outside world (“the content”). Instead, in Davidson’s influential epistemology, the “organizing system and something waiting to be organized” are hopelessly interdependent. Without our subjectivity we could never decipher our sensations, and without our sensations we would have nothing to be subjective about. In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised that different people like different bottles of cheap wine.
Unfortunately, while we will often dislike a very expensive wine and occasionally really enjoy a cheap one, my wife and I tend to be drawn to expensive-ish pinot noirs costing upwards of $30 a bottle. You’d think that if wine tastes were completely random that this wouldn’t happen.
via Radley Balko