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02.11.2005

What Is A Perfect Wine?

My fellow blogger Tom, who writes Fermentations, had a great post yesterday (and see his follow up) about a discussion he was observing (for the Nth time) on the bulletin boards at Robert M. Parker's Web site. The topic? Perfect wines (i.e. those which are scored as 100 point wines by the critics, or otherwise deemed perfect by those who are not critics). The question at hand, is whether it is really possible to proclaim a wine as perfect.

Tom uses Cartesian (a la Renee Descartes) philosophy to assert that in order to judge something perfect objectively, you must yourself be perfect or there must be such a thing as a perfect being (otherwise how else would you truly be sure to recognize perfection?). However, the one problem (which I have only too recently learned) with Cartesian philosophy is that it maintains that there is, in fact a REAL and OBJECTIVE world which people can perceive, and which any two truly rational people would perceive EXACTLY the same way.

When was the last time you saw or experienced anything in this world EXACTLY the same way as someone else? Do you have the impression that that chocolate cake you ate for dessert tasted exactly the same to you and your wife?

Other philosophers (e.g. Heidegger) would maintain that while there is certainly something out there outside of us which might be called the world or "reality," it is certainly not objective, and if you are going to call it real, then its reality is only in our (individual) interpretations of it.

This sits a lot better with me and I think helps ease the question of what really is a perfect wine. Perfect, according to most dictionary definitions, means "flawless, or lacking all defects." This at its base, is a judgment that has to be made by someone, an interpretation. And as a judgment made by an individual, it is subjective, and only valid for that one person, at that one time, in that particular place.

I have judged several wines as perfect here at Vinography. Perfect 10s. That's simply my opinion. As is a 100 point score by Parker or by any other critic or media outlet. You as a reader need to decide whose palate you trust no matter what the rating is, but even when you find someone who seems to turn you on to good wines, they will never be right for you 100% of the time. We are all different, and a wine score at the end of the day only means something, I mean really MEANS something, to the person who created it. For everyone else, it is a proxy for the level of faith that they might have in the palate of the reviewer.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.