Is “Drink What You Like” Good Advice?

sommelier 2How often how you heard this spiel?

“Drink what you like! Don’t let the experts tell you what to drink!

No one tells you what flavor ice cream to eat or which baseball team to root for.  You decide for yourself what to have for dinner or which TV show to watch.

Wine is no different. Approach wine in the same way.  There are no rules and no mistakes. Just have fun with it.”

Sage advice, amiright.

Well, not so fast. Follow the Rules vs. Anything Goes? You decide vs. let someone decide for you?  In the reasoning business we call this a false dilemma.  There is plenty of middle ground between the two extremes.

No doubt our wine-drinking choices should not be governed by excessive adherence to rules—how boring! But it doesn’t follow that learning what experts say is utterly without merit. Rules are summaries of a consensus among experts. They may not coincide with your own particular tastes. But you don’t know that until you test the rule. Rules about tastes are made to be broken, but breaking a rule is more satisfying and leads to an increase in knowledge if you know what the rule is and why it exists.

The quickest route to broadening your own taste horizons is allowing your subjective impressions to be challenged by experts. You will probably learn something from them and discover wines  you didn’t know about, some of which may well be a revelation.  Systematic learning is always more effective than random experimentation.

Of course, often you should drink what you like. No one says “drink what you don’t like.” But what you like is a moving target and the wine world is vast.

Why limit yourself to what you’re already familiar with?

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