Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I am developing a recommendation system on wines. How can I learn about the distinct tastes, flavors and aspects of wine that make users like them? Does emotion or place of origin play a part in deciding which wine an individual will like?
—Suchismit, New York
I think the best way to learn about the varying flavors of wines is, of course, to taste as much wine as you can. But developing the vocabulary to describe these flavors involves language. And to develop these language skills, I recommend both reading other people’s impressions of wines, and to try to express your own impressions, either by writing or talking about wines as much as you can. There’s also a great online wine school I can recommend.
As far as whether or not emotion, place of origin or any other context will play a part, absolutely! Where you are, the company you’re keeping, what kind of food you had with the wine, that’s all part of the experience. If you want to remove as many of those variables as possible, you might want to consider blind tastings, which is what we do here at Wine Spectator. We sit in the tasting room and focus on the bagged bottles of wine in front of us, without taking prices or producers into account. And there’s never any food to distract our impressions.
I think that all of those variables aside, the truly great wines of the world are universally appreciated and respected. We all have our personal preferences for styles of wine, but style aside, true quality shines through.
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