Friday, 18 December 2009

So that was Christmas

Well Christmas is pretty much over now, and I can start to contemplate sleeping. Not loads of interesting wines sold, but a lot of covers passed, and lots and lots of time spent at work.
However late nights on the bus reading Black Swans by Nassim Nicolas Taleb has left me posing some questions. Principally regarding the way that people actually experience wines and food;
The effect of post hoc justification regarding wine quality, particularly when there is a big name or a big price tag.
How dopamine release influences perception of quality, examples would be the holiday rose phenomenon, where the wine that was ethereal when being sipped as the sun set in the south of France becomes disappointing ordinary back home. Now I'm sure that I've read articles talking about studies that show how spending money whilst shopping can trigger dopamine release and thus engender feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. How much of the excitement of actually spending lots of money on a bottle of wine is actually reflected in the pleasure garnered in the drinking/experiencing of it.
Then more generally what is the root cause of pleasure experienced in relation to food and wine consumption.
Obviously with wine, the alcohol present has an effect. There is also an element of taste present, and we are all suckers for things that taste nice. However it is evident that wine is something that we learn to appreciate, does this make it more susceptible to learned preconceptions regarding it's quality and complexity?
The Fat Duck cook book has many interesting facets to it, central to Blumenthals philosophy seems to be engaging the brain, so creating an experience, adding extras to the experience that complement the food. What is the spit between direct appreciation of flavour and appreciation that is related to the environment/existing preconceptions etc..
Reading the opening chapter to Noble Rot, about Bdx, there was a comment about how the new world had made wine labels more decipherable by listing grape varieties, rather than obscure place names et al. However I got to wondering whether this was actually any real use, as simple listing that the wine is a Merlot or a Shiraz doesn't neccecarily make things much easier, and with reflection, how different is this to the old old tradition of labelling things after the place from whence the best known proponent of the style they were copying originated. Australian Claret, Haughtons White Burgundy, Californian Hock? Did the European insistence on the trade marking of certain geographical denominators actually do them a disservice in the long run, as it forced the newer wine regions to forge identities for themselves, surely now Chardonnay is a bigger brand than Burgundy ever was... Certainly Sauvignon Blanc is much better known than Sancerre will ever be. However how much use is Sauvignon Blanc as an indicator of style when you compare an Alto Adige with an oaked example from San Antonio?
A few things I've been musing on.

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