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The Philosophy of Wine: A Case of Truth, Beauty, and Intoxication

Cain Todd
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    The Philosophy of Wine
    Book Description:

    Questions like these have entertained anyone who has ever puzzled over the tasting notes of a wine "expert." Such questions can be bewildering but they also raise fascinating philosophical issues about the nature of sense perception, knowledge, beauty, and meaning. Wine appreciation can reveal important insights about ourselves, our interests, and pleasures. In a lively and engaging discussion of the philosophical significance of wine, Cain Todd brings much-needed clarity to confusions about wine characteristics and the nature of expertise, while championing the objectivity and seriousness of our appreciation of wine. Todd shows that to be able to interpret and appreciate the complexity and unique values of an object that, at first, is just an alcoholic drink, is an incredible thing and an experience without which the world would be a poorer place. Touching on issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind, Todd offers a sustained defence of the objectivity of wine judgments, a demystification of the nature of expertise, and a theory of the aesthetic value of wine and its appreciation.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9471-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Does this Bonnes Mares really have notes of chocolate, truffle andmerde de cheval? Can Chablis really possess bracing acidity and a middle palate of steely minerality reminiscent of wet stones? Assuming that winemakers in the Loire or Barossa valleys are not experimenting with some unusual ingredients, can Sancerre really smell of cat’s pee or Shiraz of sweaty saddles? Can wines really be brooding, profound, elegant, pretentious, charming, cheeky or deceitful? At what point do metaphorical characterizations of wine transgress the hazy boundary dividing the imaginative and informative from the outlandish and absurd? Is Chgteau L’Eglise Clinet 1989 really a...

  5. 1 The Experience of Wine: Tasting, Smelling and Knowing
    (pp. 11-44)

    Philosophical reflection on the nature of wine, our experience of it and pleasure in drinking it has been firmly rooted in the ordinary, everyday observation that, in the hierarchy of importance, our senses of taste and smell seem to lie well below vision, hearing and touch. By “importance” I do not just mean basic survival value, for although we can survive without sight and hearing, and (perhaps with more difficulty) touch, our full engagement with the complex social and cultural world so vital to human flourishing depends on the pre-eminence of these senses. In contrast, although our senses of smell...

  6. 2 The Language of Wine: Chemicals, Metaphors and Imagination
    (pp. 45-76)

    The vast array of ways in which wine can be described defies straightforward analysis, but chances are, given that you are reading this book, you will already be familiar with the enormous panorama of wine characterizations, and the examples above are designed merely to give some flavour of this. They range from the simple, literal and descriptive to the elaborate, metaphorical and evaluative, through to the imaginative, outlandish and absurd. They encompass judgements referring not just to what we might call “intrinsic” features of the wine, but also “extrinsic” features such as winemakers’ intentions and values, styles of wine, and...

  7. 3 The Case for Objectivity I: Realism, Pluralism and Expertise
    (pp. 77-100)

    We have so far seen that at least some of the judgments we make about wine, some of the words we use to describe it – including certain metaphors and evaluations – and some of our experiences of it, are firmly tethered to properties that we can with confidence say are reallyinthe wine. They are there to be detected, independent of us, and hence have some claim to be “objective”. We also touched on the idea that our judgements about wine may be grounded as much in certain conventions, norms and consensus among experts as in the perceptible...

  8. 4 The Case for Objectivity II: Relativism, Evaluation and Disagreement
    (pp. 101-134)

    The best place to begin is with a closer examination of some of the issues alighted on in the second chapter concerning the nature and role of conventions in establishing the various norms for wine language and judgement, and the role of expertise therein.

    The first thing that really needs to be emphasized here, a theme we have touched on already at various points, is that what we perceive and experience in wine is not anchored solely in basic “unmediated” or “un-interpreted” perceptual properties – the bare sensations – of taste and smell. For it can be contoured and coloured...

  9. 5 The Aesthetic Value of Wine: Beauty, Art, Meaning and Expression
    (pp. 135-172)

    Many of the purported hallmarks of tastes and smells that, as we saw in Chapter 1, are used to question their metaphysical and epistemological status, have also been called on to challenge their capacity – and hence, by extension, the objects they constitute, such as wine – to be of aesthetic interest and value. On the rare occasions that philosophers in the past deigned to discuss tastes and smells in relation to aesthetic interest and value, they generally did so either to exclude them from the domain of the aesthetic altogether, invoking a putative distinction between genuine aesthetic value and...

  10. Conclusion: Truth, Beauty and Intoxication
    (pp. 173-182)

    I have endeavoured, throughout the course of this book, to show that wine can be an object of serious philosophical reflection and serious appreciative attention. I began, in Chapter 1, by rejecting sceptical claims – arising from common-sense intuitions, philosophical speculations and scientific study – about the inability of tastes and smells to provide us with genuine knowledge of objects. Such knowledge, in the case of wine, requires a certain level of training and expertise, and we saw that much of the empirical evidence frequently called on to undermine the existence of expertise actually instead supports it. It does so...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-186)
  12. Index
    (pp. 187-190)