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Monday, October 1, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Questions of Taste

QUESTIONS OF TASTE; the philosophy of wine (Oxford University Press,
2007, 222 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-533146-2, $34.95 hard covers) has been
edited by Barry C. Smith, an academic who teaches philosophy at the
University of London. It is a collection of 10 essays, by different
people, dealing with the philosophical issues of tasting wine. Each
contributor has something to say about how we taste wine, based on the
quotation from Voltaire, "Taste invites reflection". It obviously sets
us apart from any other living creature, that is, the ability to
discuss merits. The essays are based on the proceedings of an
international conference entitled "Philosophy and Wine: from science to
subjectivity", held in December 2004 at the University of London. This
makes it all scholarly, with end notes and bibliographies for further
reading. It is meant for the serious wine consumer, especially the ones
who read about wine. Five philosophers, a linguist, a biochemist, a
winemaker (Paul Draper, who got his college degree in philosophy), and
a wine writer (Andrew Jefford) try to illuminate the philosophical
issues surrounding a love of wine, always returning to the initial
"why?" Questions posed: can wines be brawny? (reflections on wine
vocabulary by Adrienne Lehrer), what good is knowledge in enjoying
wine? (Kent Bach). Does a wine expert enjoy wine more than a novice
does? How much should we care about what experts say about wine? This
is not an easy book to read; it is a bit turgid in places.
Audience and level of use: for philosophers, for advanced wine
Some interesting or unusual facts: well, there is a famous quote that
brings us down to earth: "What's all the fuss about wine? It's just a
bloody drink"
The downside to this book: Jancis Robinson's name was prominent on this
book, yet she wrote only a three paragraph foreword (and one of the
paragraphs is used as a logroller on the dust jacket). Editor Smith had
previously written the "Wine and Philosophy" article for Robinson's
Companion to Wine (2006), also published by Oxford. Hmmmmm...
The upside to this book: a great read on the experience of enjoying
wine. Try to read it with a glass of great red wine next to you.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.


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