For the first wine among the Spätburgunders, my impressions diverged markedly according to the glass I used. One glass rendered the wine round, seductive and velvety, and the other rendered it angular, tannic and salty. I think about readers of tasting notes, who might taste a given wine and think “It’s like I’m drinking a completely different wine; I get none of what this person is talking about.” Then what do they think? Perhaps there’s something wrong with them, that they don’t “get” what the expert “gets.” Maybe, if they’re a little more self possessed, they wonder whether the expert has a screw loose. Worst of all, they wonder whether the whole thing is bogus, writing notes based on fleeting impressions from a single bottle, or whether our various tastes are so ineluctably separate that there can’t be any point in attending to what another person writes (or says).
My system answers those conundra, but no normal wine drinker will use – or should be cajoled into using – more than one glass at a time. On the other hand, “normal” is a word infrequently applied to me, so I do suggest varying the glasses you use, which gives you the option to pattern the wine to your preference.
Just don’t go overboard. If washing and drying a zillion glasses doesn’t dissuade you, the benefits diminish in direct proportion to the extent you spazz out.
That leaves us with the ontological question of how to determine what a wine actually is. I must say, I find it wisest to ignore the question, because I think it can’t be answered. What a wine “is” depends on how you’re feeling as you drink it, on whatever quirks attend to that particular bottle, on the glass you use, and on the context of appraisal – in a tasting room, in your living room by the fire, in your kitchen with food cooking, at the table with food on your plate, with a book open and the cat in your lap? In an overheated room? With scorpions eating your toes? A lot of variables in play.
Is it satisfactory to say that a wine “is” whatever through-line is perceived to prevail regardless of the circumstance? This is what the professional reviewer wants us to believe. Leaving aside the horror of scores, even the assumption that someone can tell you exactly what a wine tastes like, is subject to so many qualifiers that it’s not terribly useful if you take it literally. As this situation is so vividly enacted with the first Spätburgunder, I’ll run us through it in detail. Too much detail. Skip over it if it doesn’t engage you.