06 February 2007

Vino, Veritas

Wine-talk has (hilariously) plunged one oenophile into a slough of existential despond:

Wine is always described as being like something else. This is appealingly post modern. If a chardonnay tastes a bit like a peach, what then does the peach taste like? A chardonnay? And if so, what does either taste like? If you must describe the Van Loveren 2001 limited edition Merlot as being “chocolately”, does it mean that chocolate tastes like the Van Loveren Merlot? And if we like the Merlot on account if its tasting like chocolate, why don’t we eat chocolate instead of drinking wine?

These are questions of a profound epistemological weight. They reflect the uncertain status of anything we claim to know and understand. If I don’t understand the meaning of a word, and I look it up in the dictionary, I see it explained in other words. Those other words, in case I don’t understand them either, are explained by yet further words. There is no absolute point of reference. So where does knowledge begin? Aren’t we all just refracting meaning around from one word to another in a pleasant verbal gavotte to fill in the time as we wait for death?

. . .

I’ve had to give up on so-called facts. They don’t exist. It took wine writers to prove this to me. Nothing is ever knowable for what it is. Admit it, you can no more say what a taste is than you can say what a colour is or what a feeling is.

I’ve drunken quite a lot more from the open bottle in front of me whilst wrestling with this problem (wrestling?), and with the challenge of describing my experience by reference to facts alone, but my resolve - to say nothing of my capability – now seems somewhat diminished. One fact that I think I’m sure of is that I’m feeling strangely euphoric right now, and it doesn’t matter much to me any more what this Malbec is like at all. Apart from the fact that it is spare, regal, well-structured, and delivers more than it promises (that glowing feeling that enshrouds your consciousness 30 seconds after you have swallowed - that is what it delivers). And so I pose myself the question: what, after all, is truth? The answer is quite simple Mr Wittgenstein. The veritas is simply in the vino.



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