Matt Skinner, the head of wine at Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurants once said that wine is “fruit juice for adults” and I couldn’t agree more. In my time learning about and working with wine, I’ve noticed people can shy away from talking about wine in front of others, because they feel that they don’t know enough or that they might say something ‘wrong’. Well let me reassure you that ‘wrong’ is not right because wine is a completely personal experience. Some people may be able to tell you how a wine is made by looking at the bottle, they may know which years were good years and which were great, but what they can’t tell you is what you’re tasting. Taste is a personal perception of what the smell and taste of something is saying to you. Does your wine smell like rose petals or citrus fruits or is it more vague, reminding you of a new pair of shoes? Only you know and when people talk about what they can taste and smell in wine they are talking about their perceptions, none of these things are in the wine.
For this reason when you drink wine you should be able to express whatever your experience is and not feel as though you are talking rubbish. There is a science to what we taste, what matches well together and why certain flavours may be perceived more than others. The science does make sense. At the end of the day though when someone takes a sniff of a glass of wine and a sip of the nectar within, they are only commenting on what their brain is telling them and this is different for every single person. I have seen blind tastings that have quite literally been blind, where even the colour of the wine has been obscured. People have thought that white wine was red and vice versa, commenting that they could taste blackberries in a white wine and pineapple in red. This may seem crazy, but they could taste it, this is what they perceived and who were we to tell them they were wrong.
When we were kids we would go to the fridge, take a carton of juice and glug it down not worrying about whether the acidity was quite right or trying to see if we could guess what other flavours might have been present. It should be the same with wine. We may like a particular producer, just as we may have preferred Ribena vs Robinsons as kids. Or we may like red, white or rose wine just as orange juice is different to apple juice.
At the end of the day, whatever you think you can smell or taste doesn’t actually matter to anyone except you. You can keep it to yourself or tell everyone you are with, but the only question you need to answer is ‘do I like this wine?’ If the answer is no then fear not! There are plenty more wines out there to try and I suggest taking that chance then and there to try another. But if you like the wine then kudos! Refill your glass and savour your own experience of flavours. And remember, at the end of the day, it’s just fruit juice for the adults.