It's all inconsistent subjectiveness, folks...
Over the weekend, I had an interesting exchange with a reader who stated that I was "completely wrong" in my evaluation of a particular wine. Even after pointing out the fact that my assessment was purely subjective, this person was bent on trying to prove me wrong, essentially inferring he was right.
Let me be clear: there is no right or wrong when it comes to evaluating wine, for smell/taste remains in the nose/mouth of the drinker. Furthermore, a drinker's impressions of wine are rarely consistent when returning to the same bottle.
Then I encourage you to read chapters 20 thru 22 of Jamie Goode's book, "The Science of Wine", which details wine flavor and its perception. Goode states that while scientific measuring devices can consistently capture a wine's physical parameters, a drinker has a much more difficult challenge assessing taste and smell in wine:
...what a critic does in rating a wine is tell us about his or her interaction with it. Critics tell us about themselves as well as the wine, and it is hard to separate the two. They bring to wine not only their individual cultural and contextual differences, but also their perceptions of the wine itself, which depend on complex physiology and neurobiology. As with scientific instruments, we need to know the error margins in their performance: how consistent is their perception of the same liquid tasted at different times, in different contexts, on different days? The best critics should be consistent, but has anyone actually measured this? More importantly, we assume that our perceptions of the same wine are broadly similar - that we use the same physiological and neurobiological "tools" for assessing wine.
Goode goes on to cite scientific studies that demonstrate how individuals live in different "taste worlds" based on their flavor sensations. Even when scientific instrumentation specifies a flavor as salty, sweet, acidic, or bitter, individuals have different impressions of these same flavors. Simply put, it's all subjective.
Still not convinced?
Then I encourage you to read Leonard Mlodinow's article, "Why Wine Ratings Are Badly Flawed", that highlights a number of studies calling into question the ability of wine tasters to make the taste distinctions they claim. More importantly, the article covers the work of Robert Hodgson, a winemaker, scientist, and statistician, who has analyzed wine competitions to reveal significant inconsistencies.
This article offers useful insights to consumers, who might rely too frequently on the inconsistent, subjective assessments of others when choosing what wine to buy or drink. Mlodinow summed it up this way:
As a consumer, accepting that one taster's tobacco and leather is another's blueberries and currants, that a 91 and a 96 rating are interchangeable, or that a wine winning a gold medal in one competition is likely thrown in the pooper in others presents a challenge. If you ignore the web of medals and ratings, how do you decide where to spend your money? One answer would be to do more experimenting, and to be more price-sensitive, refusing to pay for medals and ratings points.
Simply put: think for yourself. Read a variety of wine reviews from different sources. Discover what you like, rather than allowing others to tell you what to like. Get to know your palate by tasting a variety of different wines. You be the judge.
Here at BeyondtheBottle.com, my evaluations are merely individual frames of reference on wines tasted before/during/after a particular meal at a specific point in time. It is neither the ultimate nor the final judgement of a bottle of wine opened at my dinner table. These assessments are not right or wrong; they are simply my subjective opinion, and at times an inconsistent one at that.