Wednesday, November 25, 2009

3 Blind Men and a Wine

Do you remember the old Sufi parable about the 3 blind men and the elephant? The first blind man reached out and grasped the elephant's trunk and described a serpent, the second felt its tree-like leg, the third its leathery ear and the fourth man encountered its rope-like tail. When the blind men began to talk with each other, an argument ensued as each tried to describe the elephant in his terms. Each interpreted and described the animal from their direct, personal experience yet they could not reach a consensus or fuller understanding about the elephant.

Each man possessed a “truth” from their own personal experience but that “truth” was limited to their own experience and interpretation. In many ways experiencing, interpreting and describing wine and wine with food is analogous to this parable making the topic of wine unnecessarily complicated, contradictory and difficult.

Advice, attitudes and opinions on the subject of how wine is enjoyed and what to do when wine and food are served together cover an almost limitless gamut of options. Positions range from a simple, laissez-faire attitude of “drink and eat what you like” to intense and emotionally charged, wine based micro-cultures replete with their own language, rituals, protocol and propriety. For every expert judgment proclaiming a wine is great there is another expert voice claiming to the contrary. For virtually every expert recommendation to “serve this wine with this food” there is the counter opinion to “never serve that same wine with that same food.”

Surprisingly this allows us to acknowledge and honor everyone’s point of view. It provides us with a better understanding that there are many ways of describing, judging, or scoring wine. What is missing is the knowledge of the fundamentals of our differences and if something appears a different way than WE experience it there must be something wrong with THEM. Whatever value system you find works for you is, indeed, valid. What does not work is the inference that what works for you will work for everyone, or even anyone, else. The research and findings I have been playing around with create a powerful context for radically changing many of the commonly held wisdoms and principles of wine enjoyment also provide insights into why we should embrace and respect the many differing points of view that have become standards for appreciating wine. The net result is a higher level of understanding that puts an end to the constant bickering about who is right or who is wrong.

There is a lot to be learned about ourselves and others. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it, and love and good wishes to everyone.