Slaying Snobbery, One Taste Bud At A Time

Tim Hanni is both a Master of Wine and a recovering alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in 14 years.

Part of his recovery involved re-evaluating his attitudes, and decided he had been pretentious: “I was an arrogant ass.”

Imagine that — an arrogant wine expert.

I never really drank wine until about 2-3 years ago. I love it now — it’s my first choice in any type of drinking setting, nearly every time — but have always found the snobbery around it very off-putting. And these days, beer snobs are just as bad.

But Hanni adapted. He recovered his humility, and stayed in the wine industry, and consulted with taste experts in the food and wine world:

“He became convinced that some people prefer light, sweet wines to high-alcohol, high-intensity ones because of factors such as the number of taste buds they have — and not because White Zinfandel drinkers are unsophisticated.”

This is a somewhat radical idea in the wine world. The idea that something as simple and easily explained as a physical difference in our taste buds causes us to prefer one taste over another? Bloody impossible!

As a result of this research, he invented a taste scale called the budometer, and a test to evaluate a person’s taste bud sensitivity and recommend certain wines based on those results. He also invented a new way to classify wines, the progressive wine list, which is used by many restaurants today.

I took the test, and it said I was in the “Tolerant” category, which means I like lots of flavor and high-alcohol content: Cabernet, Rhone, and reserve style Chardonnays. True enough; I’m surprised it didn’t put Zinfandel in there too, which I like a lot, and which definitely fits those parameters. Although, I also really like Syrah and Pinot Noir; it just depends on what sounds good to me at the moment.


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