The New York Sun has reported that Jancis Robinson has declared and had herself medically certified a “supertaster,” only to be closely followed by Robert M. Parker Jr. Apparently Jancis has two times the taste buds of 65% of the other women on the planet. Robert, not to be left out and sadly lacking a plethora of glossopharyngeal nerves, has declared the grooves of his tongue deeper than everybody else’s. Wrong for two pretty major reasons, I think it is time we as the consumers of their products rescind their invitation to our little food-and-wine-are-fun party.
In the first case, these claims are deleterious because they say to the common tasters, those looking to these pundits for guidance, you need to be special to taste. I like to believe I have an ability to relay the experience of flavors to people well, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the bumps on my tongue or some unique ability. The truth is I taste a lot, many things, and often, and because of my love of tasting I often do so in the company of other people passionate about gustation. We then discuss our experience and through these discussions become better at describing sensations. That’s it, nothing fancy. Consuming and BS-ing, that’s how you identify aromas like raspberry, Band-Aids, pencil lead or salamander, not by being born with more taste buds than three-fifths of the rest of the world that share your gender.
In the second case, these claims are imbecilic because they show a fundamental lack of knowledge of the basic process they are claiming to be so fantastic at. I have never really studied the physiology of taste seriously, but I do read copious amounts about food and wine and as a result have learned plenty on the fundamentals of the subject. The reality is taste buds and tongue grooves serve six simple purposes in the way we perceive sensations of flavor. They sense sweet, bitter, salty, and sour, they offer a sensation of richness when met by certain protein strands, and through an interesting geometric fit with the chemical structure of capsaicinoids they tell the brain to produce endorphins everything else about taste happens in the nasal cavity. That is it. Neither of the situations these two are declaring would make you particularly good at seeking out nuance in wine, just extra sensitive to the balance of tannin, acid, alcohol, and sugar (possibly to a fault if this supposed increased sensitivity makes touches illusive to us average tasters glaring to your touchy buds). So all they are claiming is extrasensory perception of exactly the things people at the beginning of wine comprehension already know their preference for. Ask anyone if they prefer their wines sweet or dry, they will have an answer.
So why then (assuming Bob and Jancis have done at least as much wine reading as I have, and know that these claims are baloney) would they announce super genetic predispositions that, even if true, have little to do with actually tasting wine? Well, I am proud to say because of me. Me and all the other people writing blogs about the pleasures of wine without asking to be praised as geniuses, people who have never felt the need for silly acts like insuring our palates, just women and men who love wine and love interaction with other people that also do, and therefore seek it out.
In an attempt to fortify their brands against us interlopers, these two have turned their backs on the one truth all we wine lovers hold most dear: wine contributes to a quality of life and is accessible by all. So, sorry people, spend the next couple days finding places where wine is being discussed by people with no motives other than enjoying wine and join in those conversations. Once you have, turn your back on these two scared old folks, desperately grabbing at straws to save their place as know-it-alls. It’s a new generation where everyone is capable of enjoying wine to its fullest without paying for subscriptions.