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wine-tasting-1952074_960_720One of the worst pieces of advice to give a novice wine drinker is “If you like it, it is good”. Yet this slogan is a staple of many wine education classes, restaurant encounters with somms, and the server’s banter in winery tasting rooms.

The slogan assumes that there is nothing beyond your merely liking something that accounts for its quality, nothing more to be discovered and nothing more to be enjoyed. Thus, if you endorse this claim you have no reason to recognize the limitations of what you like or search for something better. It is a shame to encourage such an attitude in novice wine drinkers.

Sommeliers, of course, know this is misleading—that is why they put in the work to gain expertise. But they pretend otherwise because customers want their palates validated and are perceived to be intimidated if wine becomes too serious. Granted, not every situation is a “teaching” situation and sommeliers/merchants must be sensitive to what the customer is looking for. But to dismiss the possibility of educating a palate is irresponsible.

Granted there are many contexts in which wine quality may not matter much. A porch pounder may not be of the highest quality but that doesn’t matter if you’re just looking for refreshment.

But it doesn’t follow that there are no quality distinction between wines. For a novice drinker there is always something to be gained by expanding one’s horizons.  Discovery, learning, and insight ultimately depend on evaluation. “If you like it, it’s good” might work to sell wine but it will not educate anyone.