Sensory Evaluation - Wine & Bullfighting

Posted January 14, 2014

I have been working on some articles discussing sensory evaluation of wine, which I will have to share with here over the next couple weeks. In the meantime, it seemed fitting to share this passage from a recent book I read.

Ernest Hemingway's novel, 'Death in the Afternoon', is a non-fiction book detailing the many aspects of bullfighting. Hemingway developed a love for bullfighting over many years in Spain, and also a love of wine (though more French than Spanish). The passage below discusses appreciation of wine as Hemingway compares it to appreciation of bullfighting:

"The comparison with wine is not so far-fetched as it might seem. Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one one of the natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a great range of enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing which may be purchased. One can learn about wines and pursue the education of one's palate with great enjoyment all of a lifetime, the palate becoming more educated and capable of appreciation and you having constantly increasing enjoyment and appreciation of wine even though the kidneys may weaken, the big toe become painful, the finger joints stiffen, until finally, just when you love it the most you are finally forbidden wine entirely. Just as the eye which is only a good healthy instrument to start with become, even though it is no longer so strong and is weakend and worn by excesses, capable of transmitting constantly greater enjoyment to the brain because of the knowledge or ability to see that it has acquired. Our bodies all wear out in some way and we die, and I would rather have a palate that will give me the pleasure of enjoying completely a Chateaux Margaux or a Haut Brion, even though excesses indulged in the acquiring of it has brought a liver that will not allow me to drink Richebourg, Corton, or Chambertin, than to have the corrugated iron internals of my boyhood when all red wines were bitter except port  drinking was the process of getting down enough of anything to make you feel reckless. The thing, of course, is t0 avoid having to give up wine entirely just as, with the eye, it is to avoid going blind. But there seems to be much luck in all these things and no man can avoid death by honest effort nor say what use any part of his body will bear until he tries it. This seems to have gotten away from bullfighting, but the point was that a person with increasing knowledge and sensory education may derive infinite enjoyment from wine, as a man's enjoyment of the bullfight might grow to become one of his greatest minor passions, yet a person drinking, not tasting or savoring but drinking, wine for the first time will know, although he may not care to taste or be able to taste, whether he likes the effect or not and whether or not it is good for him."

Copyright © 2022 :: Michael Horton
Copyright © 2022 :: Michael Horton