The Perfect Wine…

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Would you drink the perfect wine if it meant you could never drink another wine afterwards? That was the questioned posed by one wine writer on twitter. Another writer asked, by whose definition? “It would be a wine all essentially accepted as perfect. Not a wine based in reality,” said the first writer, “but a hypothetical perfection.”

Joe Power tasting wineI argued there is no such thing as a universally agreed upon ‘perfect’ wine, and that one could not consider a wine “perfect” in a vacuum. Perfection is only in comparison to others past, present, future. He countered that “a theoretical perfect wine is perfect independent of a taster’s experience, so lack of tasting future wines is irrelevant.” Further, he said, perfection is independent of a person’s perception.

Now, I love a good fiction novel or a good horror story, but am less attracted to fantasy. For a story line to keep my interest, it must retain some possibility of occurring. Take last season’s American Horror Story: Asylum. In it gruesome creatures, experiments of a former Nazi surgeon, roam the grounds of a Church-run asylum for the criminally insane. A former lounge-singer-turned nun, Sister Jude (played supremely by Jessica Lange) is its cruel and punitive headmistress. A sweet and innocent nun becomes possessed by Satan, and all sorts of evil ensues.

Some may not be able to suspend belief to enjoy the series. But to me, you take a troubled and bitter nun who is taken for granted and make her responsible for people deemed criminally insane, who are all operating on a certain set of beliefs, and all sorts of evil can be explained away as possible. An agnostic might argue that all evil acts are a result of crazy people thinking crazy thoughts and blaming their misfortunes on the supernatural. The faithful, raised on doctrine that includes possession and casting out of demons, might not question anything, and enjoy the occasions when good appears to triumph over evil. Or that a character “got what was coming to him.”

But I have never been as interested in fantasy, that which requires suspending all belief in reality. Accepting alternative worlds where wizards, hobbits, Dark Lords and Elvens are all in search of a particular ruling ring is just not my thing. Fantasy, myths and legends, to me, are simply designed to explain things to those who do not understand them. Any myth, at the time of its creation and telling, probably has a yet-to-be discovered scientific explanation. A hypothesis, which through rigorous testing, results in a logical conclusion.

But to me a good hypothetical requires at least some chance of happening. And usually a greater chance than not. For example,”The Detroit Red Wings will make the playoffs next season,” is possible. “The Detroit Red Wings, will win the Stanley Cup in the first four out of seven games,” is less possible, primarily because ticket sales, advertising and television ratings are not milked until dry if there are only four games. “The Detroit Red Wings will win the Super Bowl in 2014,” is completely impossible, because the Wings are a Hockey team. Not a football team.

But, What If? you say! What if the Detroit Red Wings were stolen by Baltimore? What if the team then moved to Indianapolis? What if the town decided to turn the hockey team into a football team? What If? What If? What…

Too many “what ifs” in that scenario. It just is not going to happen – so why waste time debating it.

Kelly Fleming Sauvignon pairs perfectly with mussels.What Is Perfect to All?

There are two problems here: “perfect” and “all”

I would argue that there is no such thing that everyone would accept, or could agree to deem it “perfect.”

How often did we hear from our mothers, “Nobody likes a smart ass!”? For this to have any sort of lasting affect on behavior it would have to be true. But it is not. I love a smart ass. And obviously so do many other people, or David Letterman and Jon Stewart would not have careers. A whole genre of comedy would not exist. Some people do not like smart asses. Not everyone likes the same comedians, that is why there are so many. Sure, some are more popular than others. But there is no universal acceptance of one comedian or another. It is simply a matter of taste.

Likewise, wine is a matter of preference and taste. Some wine lovers like big bold flavors. Others like more subtle nuances. 1 Wine Dude Joe Roberts does not like Brett in his wine. He considers it unacceptable. Other wine afficianodos do not. According to author Jancis Robinson, in The Purple Pages “…unlike TCA, another fault of which wine drinkers are now much more aware, brett is something that can be perfectly fine at low levels.”

We like a little brett in our wines, although sometimes I prefer more than Joe (Power). We find wines, as we do many other things, interesting if they include a few flaws. But ours, like all wine preferences, in simply a matter of opinion.

“Perfect” cannot exist in a vacuum. To think something is perfect, one must compare it to other things or experiences. Experiences in the past. Things in the present. Experiences in the future. Perfection cannot possibly be independent of the wine taster’s perception. It cannot be independent of a taster’s palate.

And speaking of the word “palate.”

Around the 14th Century, people began using the word “palate,” from Old French palat which derived from the Latin “palatum” meaning “the roof of the mouth.” Etymology tells us that the word was used to describe “a sense of taste” because it was believed that the roof of the mouth was the “seat of taste.” While some taste receptors are on the soft palate (in the back of the throat), we now know that most of our taste buds are on the tongue. we would argue that even though wine tasters use the word “palate” to describe our preference for particular wines, what we are actually describing is our taste “palette” or the different wines that we have tasted to determine our preferences. I say “we” because it is really Joe’s (aka Houstonwino’s) theory – but it certainly makes more sense to me.

There IS no “Perfect” Wine for Everyone

“A theoretical perfect wine is perfect independent of a taster’s experience, so lack of tasting future wines is irrelevant,”  said the writer.  And further, “perfection is independent of a person’s perception.”

Rose and Salmon Corn SalsaI’ll believe that when Lions fly.

There can be no such wine that all essentially accept as “perfect.” And if a wine is not “based in reality,” why bother to go through the exercise — unless simply to rack up comments on a blog post?

While there may be the “perfect” wine, at one instance in time, for whatever you’re doing at the time. Or the perfect pairing,  of a wine to a meal at one particular moment in time. But what is so special about wine, is that there are many, many from which to choose. So many variations on one varietal — from different regions, different wineries, different winemakers.

Wine is a living, breathing thing. Wine is constantly changing, from vintage to vintage; year to year, while aging in the bottle, even while it sits in your glass and breathes.

I cannot imagine giving up all future wines, to enjoy one wine deemed a hypothetical perfection. Can you?

Cheers!

The WineWonkette

About Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and nearly 10,000 twitter fans. She holds certifications from International Sommelier Guild, regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events and is currently studying for her California Wine Appellation Specialist certification through the San Francisco Wine School.
  • sarah @the_hedonista

    wine philosophy…. Good on you for having a good think about it. Personally I’d just say “nope” and ask someone to top up my glass ;)