Book Review: Mastering the Art of Enjoying Wine: From Enology to Enosophy
posted 30th September 2022
Before I begin this review. I must make a declaration of interest, insofar as I reviewed the text and suggested corrections prior to publication.
Sharing perceptions of wine, by both consumers and professionals, has probably taken place throughout the 8000 years of wine history. In the decades following World War 2, various structured systems for tasting have been developed, which attempt to take an objective, scientific approach.
Offering encouragement to the novice taster, in the Introduction to the book the authors note that: 'The appreciation and careful description of a wine seem, in fact, to be something reserved for a chosen few, those possessing a virtuous sensitivity to smells and flavors and endowed with a rare ability to verbalize the sensations. But this impression cannot be further from reality'.
The book is divided in to five parts. In Part I of this groundbreaking book, Manuel Malfeito Ferreira and Virgílio Loureiro examine the strengths and weaknesses of the methods of sensory analysis currently used, including the terminology and systems of soring wines. There are several approaches to wine tasting that have been proposed and adopted of the centuries. These are detailed in this book. The authors discuss early pioneers and their works on wine tasting. However, they note that systematic tasting systems were developed in the years after World War II, and that French authors focused on descriptors but Americans, even at this early stage, to a more quantitative approach. When considering the development of numeric systems, it is noted that tasting scores are highly subjective metaphors, and even with descriptive tasting notes perceptions as to balance, complexity, quality and ageing potential lean heavily upon the taster's emotional connection to the wine.
I spent many years using and advocating the Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT) as developed by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust for the Diploma Level course and examinations. Using this system, the taster forensically examines the characteristics of a wine and placing many if these at a point along a scale. There are now over 11,000 graduates, mostly wine professionals, who no doubt continue to use this method in their professional evaluations. In this book authors aim to demonstrate that the 'classic method of tasting, as used worldwide, is not necessarily the most appropriate. The book proposes a new concept of tasting based upon descriptors of the taster's emotions. Of course, this raises questions. I am one who challenges concepts of 'lived' truth, i.e. that something has to be fact because the perceiver believes it to be so. Also in Part 1 thee chemical basis of aroma perception is deftly discussed.
In Part II the 'tasting brain' is dissected. We discover that smell is indeed a synthetic sense, but also represents a sensory emotion. The skills of 'perceptual experts' is challenged. The authors propose a new paradigm of tasting, beginning with emotional reactions and where assessment does not only take place in the final stage of the evaluation process. This is developed in Part III, where the emotions and aesthetics of assessment are discussed in detail. In Part IV, fashions and wine styles are scrutinised, and the importance of the 'sense of place' of fine wines is expounded. Part V introduces the concept of enosophy, the feeling, respecting, understanding and wisdom of wine in a way that is truly enlightening. The value of cellaring wines that 'taste more than they smell' is perhaps a key 'take home' message to consumers and collectors.
This is a fascinating and challenging work that deserves a place in the library of every wine professional and all thinking, wine loving, amateurs.