Have you heard that every palate is a snowflake?

What a lovely sentiment; its meaning is, of course, that we have individual and unique palates.

Now aren’t we special.

Presumably, the snowflake concept tells us that wine is subjective and that what one person finds tasteful another may not. But it says even more than that. If no snowflake is alike, then the millions of wine consumers in this world account for millions of palates, and not one is like another therefore, talking about what you taste in a wine is akin to talking to yourself.

The problem with this snowflake concept is that many who say such things happen to also be people who make a living telling the rest of us what individual wines taste like or they are people who tell us what the wines they want to sell to us taste like. Really now, if every palate is a snowflake, then how can someone else’s wine description possibly benefit the rest of us?

Maybe those who tell us what to taste in a wine do so because they are endowed with a universal snowflake decoder. Or maybe at birth they were given the gift of a snowflake that represents the entire blizzard. Or maybe the snowflake sentiment is disingenuous drivel.

My suggestion to wine reviewers: please, dispense with the metaphors. If we are the individual arbiters of our own taste, through our own palates, then it seems that you have some explaining to do concerning the benefit of your wine review.

On the other hand, if you truly believe that yours is the accurate and superior snowflake—just say so. That way, we’ll know that we should disregard our own sensory information and go by yours.

If you choose this route, would you consider shedding the number ratings and just get on with the lecture?

Snowflake or no snowflake, some of us are math as well as palate impaired.

If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
November 2009. All rights reserved.

7 Responses to “Snowflakes”

  1. vinogirl says:

    I just LOVE this post. How succintly you tackle the inherent problem with wine reviews.
    I cancelled my subscription to Wine Spectator because of Jim Laube’s holier than thou approach to Napa cabernet reviews. I disagreed with the majority of his pontifications, so why waste my money. I can get half a dozen worthy reviews on different wine blogs for free. And the use of number ratings drives me to distraction.
    When tasting cabernets I often get a hint of ‘Parma Violets’ a sweet I ate growing up in England. My husband, an American, has no idea what I am talking about. Does that make my palate superior to his? Of course not. If every palate is a “snowflake” then individual life experiences are something akin to fingerprints. Just be happy and content to have in your glass a vino you enjoy!
    Great post.

  2. Thomas says:

    Thanks Vinogirl.

    So, what’s a Parma Violet like?

    By the way, does Huntley and Palmer still produce Marie Biscuits? I used to eat them in New York City by the pounds…

  3. vinogirl says:

    Ha! My mother worked at Huntley & Palmers…it was her first job back in the work force after having 3 children. My dad loved Marie biscuits slathered with butter. The factory, outside of Liverpool, closed down many years ago, so I don’t know if they do stil make that line or not. Rich Tea is a similar biscuit.
    Hmmm…Parma Violets taste like the smell of violets 🙂

  4. Thomas says:

    No, no, I meant what is a Parma Violet?

    Is it a hard candy? A cookie?

    Sad to hear about Marie Biscuit’s demise. Lovely stuff with butter and sometimes a quick dip into cold milk.

    I’ve tried Rich Tea–not as delicate as Marie was. Hmm, this is getting risque.

  5. vinogirl says:

    Same texture as Smarties (Swizzles in UK), in a roll wrapped in cellophane.

    I think the brand ‘Lu’ still make Marie biscuits…nudge, nudge, wink, wink…

  6. Thomas says:

    Will keep my eyes open.