That flavor you hate in the wine but the guy next to you loves? To you, it's a flaw. To him, it's welcome complexity.
Somehow, I'm not surprised that this topic came up in comments about Pinot Noir. I had written that I found some of the wines in a recent tasting green and earthy. One response said those were flaws. On that I would agree. Others, however, love those green, earthy wines.
So what gives?
Partly it's a matter of physical sensitivity. Some of us can taste sugar in minute concentrations in wine. For most of us, the threshold is around a half a gram per liter. For others, wine doesn't taste sweet until it reaches twice that intensity.
The message is: we all have thresholds for any element in wine. That's one reason we so often disagree. And the more complex the wine, the more elements it has, the fewer people will like it. That's why mass market wines are so bland. They avoid anything that might offend somebody.
This is why some collectors swoon over wines you hate because they smell to you like a barnyard; they're not as sensitive to brettanomyces as you are.
One way for winemakers to create early complexity in their wines is to engineer elements into them that would otherwise be considered flaws, such as brett, but at a subliminal level. It's a risky game, but it can pay dividends in the marketplace. If I taste brett in a wine, I ding it. Others love the extra element.
But it's also a matter of what we are accustomed to. People who drink mostly young wines often dislike the nuances that develop with age, reminiscent of crushed flowers, toasted nuts, underbrush and other things that have nothing to do with fruit. That's what I am looking for in an older wine (so long as some fruit remains).
And don't get me started on oak. For some, the merest hint that the wine has seen a new barrel is too much. For others, it's not wine unless it has that sweet vanilla and coconut character of new oak. I appreciate a level of oak that enhances the basic nature of the wine without taking over. That's too much for the first group.
James Laube's blog about TCA affecting entire wineries touches on a similar issue. Who is sensitive to this specific element in wine, and just how sensitive are they?
So it goes across a whole spectrum of wine's components. And that's a good thing. You may not love all of the thousands of different wines made every vintage, but somebody will, flaws and all.