MM, thanks for starting an interesting thread, which I've been following. I'd like to chime in with a few thoughts, and a tangential question.
I agree that learning about wine is most beneficial and rewarding done with others. It's not an either/or situation in my opinion, re tasting with or without knowledgeable people. I think one may learn quite a bit, even if the others with whom you're tasting are wine-illiterate, just by virtue of having several bottles open to taste and compare, as opposed to drinking alone, at a meal, where most likely one bottle will be open to taste. My husband travels 4-5 days every week, so I often drink alone, having wine with dinner. I take very detailed notes, especially when I'm on my own, because I don't have anyone with which to share ideas.
I enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts, especially the analogies to their areas of interest, and I'd like to add my own. For many years I was an interior decorator (I decorated finished spaces, as opposed to designing the space.).The more practiced I became at my craft, the better I became at being able to create spaces not to my taste. Some decorators will only do one style over and over; others will attempt to work with different styles, and not succeed. One of my strengths became the ability to decorate in almost any style, and do it well, even though it was not to my taste. If a client wanted the living room done in country blue and pink with ruffles everywhere, the finished product would be within her budget, well balanced and pleasing to the eye. The $1000 room would not look as detailed and nuanced as the $5000 room.
I taste and judge wine with the caveat of knowing what the wine costs, and what I may discern were the intentions of the winemaker, and my own intentions for the wine: every day drinker, back porch sipper in 110 degree heat, weekend dinner (a little more special), fancy occasion, etc. I’m not going to compare Corison Cab (passionate, sophisticated, elegant), made from the heart and soul, to the Rock Hollow Cab (easy-going, straightforward, a bit gauche on the finish), made and marketed specifically as a profit center for the winery and restaurants to which they sell, as stated here. To me, they are apples and oranges even though they are from the same varietal. Some days I’ll take the juicy, greasy burger over the prime rib!
I did not get that iByron was saying analysis is enjoyable to everyone, but I understood him to mean that we all analyze, enjoyment is a product of analysis, and we can enjoy the process if we choose to. In my opinion, we take in countless impressions, continuously, and we choose, whether we’re aware or not, to what we pay attention, and then we give that value.
Now, my question, and it may seem odd, and I’ve wanted to post it before: physically, how does one taste? How is it most beneficial to take the wine into one’s mouth, and one then does what, to get the most out of the wine, especially in regards to discerning different tastes? I have extremely sensitive senses of smell and taste, and notice that I don’t use all of my taste buds, especially with drinking wine, otherwise I wouldn’t like anything. To keep flavors balanced for me, or to lessen an unpleasant taste, I’ll take food into my mouth a certain way (and no, I don’t mean by holding my nose…llo!) rpm, your Notes on Wine is a fantastic post, and should be required reading for all wine wooters. As I read, I kept thinking about how to taste, so I may get the most out of what to taste.