Do You Trust Your Own Taste in Wine and Food?

Readers! For the next couple of weeks I'll be featuring some notable articles from Casual Kitchen's archives. I'm taking a brief break from writing to do a French language immersion in Quebec.

Once again, thanks for reading and supporting my work.


Trusting Your Own Taste in Wine and Food

We have friends who simply cannot bear to drink a wine unless it has a 91 or greater score in Wine Spectator Magazine. Everything else is swill to them. Worse still, they simply will not go to any New York or New Jersey restaurant unless it has a Zagat rating of 23 or higher. To them, a restaurant that doesn't score well in Zagat's obviously can't be any good.

There are three distinct levels of tragedy in this.

First they guarantee that they'll always overpay for their wine and food. Second, they subsume their choices and wants to an unknown group of experts who can't possibly know what they like. And third, by doing these things, they'll never develop any genuine trust in their own tastes.

You might think that you can make better choices when you follow seemingly objective opinions from "experts." In reality, however, you are actually limiting your range of choices. Worst of all, you are building a habit of letting others do your thinking for you.

Here's the bottom line: Enslaving your preferences to others is the polar opposite of consumer empowerment, and it's contrary to everything Casual Kitchen is all about.

Here's a simple example why I think no one should subsume their choices and tastes to score, a rating, or any other seemingly objective measure of food or wine quality. A few months ago we had a wine tasting with friends, and I challenged everyone to blind taste-test two chiantis. I asked each person to tell me 1) which chianti they thought was the most expensive, and 2) which chianti they liked better.

None of us really has a "palate" in the winetasting sense. However, out of our group of four, three of us could easily tell which of the chiantis was the most expensive. Even more amazingly, all four of us still liked the cheaper chianti (which cost $15) more than the expensive one (which cost $35).

We chose for ourselves what we liked better, and happily, our choices ran counter to both the prices of the wines and the rating (apparently, the cheaper Chianti wasn't worthy of a rating because it didn't even have one). Did we prefer the less expensive wine because we have bad taste? Are our palates simply blind and deaf to good wine?

Does it really even matter? We like what we like. Isn't that a much better measure of your preferences than some wine or restaurant rating made up by people who don't even know you?

What is the insight here? It's that preferences are never objective, and your personal tastes will always be more important than the preference of any so-called expert.

Develop your own taste and your own palate. Don't rely solely on wine ratings or restaurant ratings. And most importantly don't pattern or reframe your taste preferences because of what some team of experts says. You can think and choose for yourself, and you don't need somebody else to tell you what wine tastes good or what food is desirable.

You are a better judge of that!

* This post was originally published on 5/11/2010.

Related Posts:
How to Start a Casual and Inexpensive Wine Tasting Club
27 Themes and Ideas for Wine Tasting Club Meetings
How Do You Define Truly Great Restaurant Service?
Ten Rules for the Modern Restaurant-Goer
How to Use Food and Wine Jargon Without Sounding Pretentious

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