December 7 2008
The line between wisdom and mere knowledge is daubed with not only experience, but also wherewithal.
I would hasten to say that Robert Parker, James Laube, Jancis Robinson and a number of other wine writers who have been perfecting their craft (and their palate) over years and even decades have a tremendous amount of wine wisdom.
That is, they have a historical perspective on wineries, regions, and specific wines wrought by years of experience AND the wherewithal to know where they may need to enhance their knowledge be it around a winery, a varietal, or a region.
The rest of us are simply working on enhancing a body of knowledge, however small, accumulating enough years and enough diversity in palate awareness to drop some pearls of wisdom at some point in the future.
So, let us draw a clear line of distinction in between wisdom – vast and varied knowledge put into historical and geographical perspective with context versus simple knowledge, which is learned or trained betterment.
This important line of distinction wisdom and knowledge, and the confidence to know the difference between the two, came to mind recently when I had friends over for my birthday, a perfectly good reason to drink a lot of wine with some likeminded folks.
We debauched with a theme of California Pinot Noir and enjoyed a 2006 Road 31 Pinot Noir, 2005 William Selyem “West Side Neighbors,” 2005 Patz and Hall Pinot Noir, 2006 Cellar Rat (Crushpad) Pinot Noir, 2006 Bouchaine Carneros Pinot Noir, 2006 Concannon Central Coast Pinot Noir, and a 2004 Echelon Pinot Noir.
The Patz & Hall “won” the popular vote amongst the attendee’s with the Williams Selyem a close second, by the way.
Most of the folks that were over are budding wine enthusiasts – not possessing a great deal of wisdom about wine, nor an intense knowledge either, but they are aware, curious and interested in building on their passion for all matters of the grape.
We went through something of an organized tasting of the five more expensive Pinot’s and I passed out aroma guides to help with the tasting notes.
I find, when distracted, or in a social environment (despite the peculiar stares), when pure concentration is not a possibility, that an aroma guide is quite helpful.
However, a funny thing happened when I was passing out the printouts for the tasting notes and the aroma guides – most of my guests looked at me as if we would be cheating, as if having an aroma guide while tasting was akin to having a crib sheet inked into the palm of my hand for the Western Civ. Test (ahem, not that I know anything about this sort of thing), or, worse, that is was somehow gauche or tacky, kind of embarrassing to acknowledge that a little help is okay, an aroma card is surely lacking in refinement and thus not cool.
The difference between wisdom and knowledge, especially in wine, is the ability to know what you know, and to also know what you do not know, and, frankly, to not care about deficiencies in your knowledge and how you may look – that is true wisdom in action. So, pull out the aroma card when taking wine notes. No shame—that’s wherewithal and helping your knowledge turn into wisdom.
A couple of my favorite (free) resources: