Pier Paolo Giglioli, Giolo Fele

The knowledge of sommeliers. Toward an ethnography of wine tasting

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Wine Tasting; Teaching; Sensory Analysis; Subject-Object Phenomenology; Intersubjectivity; Categorial Analysis; Taste.

How can the unavoidable subjectivity of taste experience be transformed into the intersubjectivity of wine tasting? We suggest, first, that the object of wine tasting is not a «natural» object, but an object «constructed» by means of discursive practices and tasting techniques that narrow the taster's subjectivity and direct her attention towards certain specific properties of wine; second, that professional tasters acquire these practices and techniques, and master their application to concrete instances of wine tasting, as a result of a learning process led by experienced teachers. On the basis of a close ethnographic analysis of apprentice sommelier classes, we single out and illustrate four techniques used by teachers: calibrazione - the fine-tuning of beginners' perceptions in order to approach the tasting experience carefully and attentively; magnificazione - the highlighting of select features of the object of taste; attesa e considerazione - the suspension of judgement and the diachronical revisitation of the tasting experience; cristallizzazione - the final determination and inscription in a tasting sheet of the most relevant taste components of a given wine. All these practices are eminently reflexive, implying a continuous attention of the taster to his/her tasting activity and an interaction between wine descriptors and taste experience.

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