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Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine [Kindle Edition]

Barry C Smith , Barry C. Smith , Jancis Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'The contributors prove well up to the task of situating wine-centred questions within a larger framework of questions about taste and perception, subjectivity and objectivity, and aesthetic appraisal more generally.' --Times Literary Supplement

'Smith contends that, contrary to the oft-repeated incantation that taste is personal and all opinions are equally valid, oenophilia is not a strictly subjective exercise, and some people are more adept at judging Burgundies and Rhones than others.' --New York Times Book Review

'Looks at the perception and appreciation of wine by an impressive line-up of philosophers and wine professionals. A perfect gift.' --The Bookseller

Product Description

Interest in and consumption of wine have grown exponentially in recent years and there has been a corresponding increase in consumers' knowledge of wine, which in turn has generated discussions about the meaning and value of wine in our lives and how renowned wine critics influence our subjective assessment of quality and shape public tastes.

Wine first played a part in Western philosophy at the symposium of the early Greek philosophers where it enlivened and encouraged discussion. During the Enlightenment David Hume recommended drinking wine with friends as a cure for philosophical melancholy, while Immanuel Kant thought wine softened the harsher sides of men's characters and made their company more convivial.

In Questions of Taste, the first book in any language on the subject, philosophers such as Roger Scruton and wine professionals like Andrew Jefford, author of the award-winning book The New France, turn their attention to wine as an object of perception, assessment and appreciation. They and their fellow contributors examine the relationship between a wine's qualities and our knowledge of them; the links between the scientifically describable properties of wine and the conscious experience of the wine taster; what we base our judgements of quality on and whether they are subjective or objective; the distinction between the cognitive and sensory aspects of taste; whether wine appreciation is an aesthetic experience; the role language plays in describing and evaluating wines; the significance of their intoxicating effect on us; the meaning and value of drinking wine with others; whether disagreement leads to relativism about judgements of taste; and whether we can really share the pleasures of drinking.

Questions of Taste will be of interest to all those fascinated by the production and consumption of wine and how it affects our minds in ways we might not hitherto have suspected.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 976 KB
  • Print Length: 248 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0195384598
  • Publisher: Signal Books; 1 edition (5 Feb 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BBE7R4G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #422,608 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can be a drinker as well as a thinker 1 Jan 2008
This book effortlessly combines the serious business of philosophy with the equally important subject of wine (important that is to lovers of wine!).

The book takes the form of a series of essays by both masters of wine and masters of philosophy. The essay format makes the book accessible and easy to dip into whether you are an amateur philosopher or an enthusiastic oenophile. The format also allows a wide spectrum of subjects to be covered from the philosophical question of whether taste can be objective (see the essay written by the book's editor, Barry Smith) to the science behind how the brain processes sensations of taste and smell (an admirably lucid article by Jamie Goode who is both a biochemist and a wine writer).

A perfect present for drinkers who aspire to be thinkers.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unpretentious yet assertive 17 Dec 2007
I was a little worried that this book would annoy me. I enjoy wine and don't need anyone's help to do so, but the book won me over very quickly. There are excellent essays written by philosophers, wine writers and critics, even a biochemist - all of it is accessible and interesting. (Scruton's piece is effortlessly revelatory.) Most importantly, the book manages the difficult balance between accessibility and serious philosophy. It is a genuine contribution to debates in the philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, aesthetics, perception, etc. This is no part of the dubious trend towards haphazard reflection on a piece of popular culture. Is the taste in us or in the glass? Does knowing more about a wine make it taste better? How does the brain affect how we process such a complicated set of sensory signals? Can wines be works of art? How do we rank wines and assess reputations if we are not experts? What does our talk of wine really mean? These are good philosophical questions, and the answers can change, even improve, our experience of wine.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A. Kirk
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A match made in heaven - wine and phisoplhyo, sorry hic philosophy... Who hasn't sat at dinner after a good meal and the odd glass of the , feeling mellow and philosophical, this book will be right up your street. I have given copies to wine experts and amateur enthusiasts alike and it has been warmly welcomed.
Probably not for those who want just a light read - this is quite serious stuff, written well, but quite meaty - ahh, that will be a Rioja with that then...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended! 13 Dec 2007
By Elio Distaola - Published on
A friend had recommended this book to me and, although I enjoy wine and lite philosophy, I have to admit that I was at first daunted by the title. But after another friend, a sommelier, told me that I had to read it, I finally bought it--and loved it! I didn't expect that I, a non-philosopher (though a wine lover), would be able to keep pace but I'm glad to report that I was wrong.

You'll find within this book's pages the best possible presentation of what many may deem a highly subjective topic. What's great about this particular collection of essays is the obvious thought that the editors put into their selections, and how these pieces frame and address the issue. This collection masterfully guides the reader through tricky territory, not in an attempt to find out who's ultimately "right," but to help readers better understand the questions we really ought to be asking. They also address the conditions, both physiological and psychological, that predispose us to these "questions of taste" in the first place. For example, what is meant when we talk about a "fine wine" and why does this phrase carry so much authority? Is taste in us, or is it in the wine? Do experts actually taste things that others can't?

The one thing I want to stress about this book is that, despite the heavy questions it takes on, this is a totally accessible read. Best of all, the quality of writing and thought is not sacrificed in the process. I'd feel more than comfortable recommending this to both the serious and the amateur oenophile. I think that the only people who can walk away from this book without having learned something valuable and new are the editors...

Buy one for yourself, and ten more for your thinker/drinker friends--they'll thank you for it!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! 17 Dec 2007
By Comte Ory - Published on
A very witty and interesting philosophical guide to wine. It's great to see prominent philosophers not just writing about the usual abstractions but considering the serious puzzles that confront wine-lovers: how can we have a shared vocabulary for describing how wine tastes? Is there really such a thing as expertise in wine-tasting? It even has a chapter on intoxication - most writers seem to miss that aspect of wine-drinking! Definitely the most orginal book on wine I've read. I recommend it especially to people interested in the "wine wars" (Robert Parker vs. the Europeans). It helped me think about the underlying issues (though I didn't change sides afterwards!).
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Background in Philosophy and a Love of Wine 4 July 2008
By Flippy - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I wouldn't recommend this book unless you are either philosophically minded (i.e. have a background in philosophy) or enjoy scholarly essays. This book is not an introduction to wine, it is not about families in vineyards, about wine lovers and wine-makers sharing their personal tales about wine and the wine experience (although Chapter 10 does focus on Ridge winemaker, Paul Draper and his opinions about wine and wine culture - if you can pick this book up at the library, just read his interview with wine writer Andrew Jefford. It is the most accessible part of the book, revealing the depth and passion of a widely-read, world traveled California winemaker).

If you took a philosophy class in university and didn't enjoy it, I suggest something else. This book is dry, reminiscent of philosophical journals I had to read as an undergraduate. As much as I loved this book, treasured each individual essay, I know it isn't for everyone. The book doesn't focus on grape varieties, doesn't talk about the history of wine, etc...

But again, I loved it. Ten essays, all of them focusing on the philosophical questions circulating around wine appreciation and apprehension. There is discussion about the science of wine, the science of the brain, subjectivity vs. objectivity. If this gets you going, I recommend this book. I found the reading fascinating but slow going, often pausing, putting the book aside over some of the more difficult to grasp concepts. Each essay is worth several reads, if not to enjoy the prose and the arguments but to further dwell on the questions presented. The one question I still come back to: is wine art? Roger Scruton would argue against it as would Tim Crane in this volume. It is a question I often put to my colleagues in the wine industry and the discussion always comes up with something new.

Again, this is a great read, one of my favourites in the literature of wine (The Judgment of Paris by George Taber another) but not for everybody. If you want the challenge and are prepared for it, I say go for it. Others interested in philosophy of wine, check out 'Wine & Philosophy' edited Frit Allhoff... both are great but the latter is suitable for a larger audience.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not a Question of Taste, it's just fantastic 11 Dec 2007
By Teddy Florent - Published on
Dear philosophers and wine lovers THANKS ! what a wonderfull time I had reading Question of Taste : the philosophy of wine. I particulary enjoyed the multi-talent approaches and review of the wine world, no matter you're a wine expert or a great philosopher to learn, think, smile... and almost taste.
The NY Time review is what triggered my choice (if you don't believe my enthusiastic comment, check the NY Time review).
Question of Taste is the first book on the phylosophy of wine... but it won't be the last of my christmas gifts (what a perfect one !).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on wine, taste and philosophy I have read 12 May 2013
By Daz - Published on
I have read a number of books on wine and philosophy, many of them quite good, but this edited series of ten lectures / essays has a number of tremendous articles packaged together well for the overall volume. As a growing wine enthusiast, I learned a tremendous amount and found the topics pitched at the right level.
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