It’s a valid question, especially for someone starting out on the wine learning path. One of the stated goals of the WSET courses is to learn how to judge the quality of a wine by tasting it. By definition this means ridding oneself of personal tastes and preferences to give a dispassionate opinion of a wine. A wine could be of good quality and yet depending on personal taste, some people might not like it. I think that is one of the great challenges facing me.
For a long time I had an purely hedonistic approach to wine, simply trying to judge what I drank by whether I liked it, whether I enjoyed it or not. It’s not a bad approach, it’s open-minded, it’s simple and it makes wine drinking accessible for the profane. Gone are those days! I now must drink seriously, furrow my brow and take inspired and intense poses as I ponder the deep mysteries of the wine in my glass.
Nah, just kidding, that sounds like too much work… I still try to ask myself whether I enjoy a wine or not. The difference is that I should make myself form an objective opinion first. I hope the brow furrowing will be kept at minimal levels, it sounds painful. Plus I’m not sure I can pull off the inspired, focused look for extended periods of time… I’m not really sure it’s in my nature.
It remains hard to separate taste and quality, especially since I’m really a beginner. What is quality? I tend to think that a wine tastes like a wine from its region/variety/style should taste, then a certain standard is reached. Granted this is more like judging the representativity of a wine than its quality, but I think it’s a start. Of course it’s possible for an outlier of a wine to be of good quality while not being a good example of its style of region.
I really believe this is just a first step in the right direction. Eventually I’ll learn to be more specific about the quality of the wines I taste, judging, for instance, the aging potential for a young wine. But the road is long, and it’s a good thing. I mean it’s a good thing if tasting wine remains enjoyable; I never want it to become a chore, just an exercise of my taste buds and my wine knowledge. There is the intellectual thrill of learning and expanding your knowledge of course, but wine, by itself, has a thrill of its own that I do not want to lose along the way.