Good Taste in Music

It's fascinating the way that people talk about music. Instrumental music, like smell and taste, is pre-cognitive. The melody of a song can stir emotion before we understand it or put words to it. In the movie Autumn Sonata, the one of the main characters talk about Chopin's piano sonatas, saying "Chopin was emotional, but not mawkish. Feeling is very far from sentimentality, The prelude tells of pain, not reverie. It hurts, but he doesn't show it." What a captivating interpretation of Chopin's work which focuses on the feeling of listening to his music, going beyond mere descriptions of the sound of the notes themselves.

Why don't we do that same thing with taste?

The way our culture talks about wine is through a long set of tasting notes, attempting to communicate what flavors are in the wine. While that approach has its uses, it can get a bit too mechanistic. Describing a wine as having red fruits and bright acidity is a bit like saying Chopin's prelude is quiet and in A minor. It's not wrong, but I still don't know what it feels like to listen to it.

I don't have a great answer yet as to better ways to describe taste, and many of my taste descriptions later in this email will still use classic comparisons to fruits and other recognizable flavors. I worry that getting too flowery in my descriptions will be more alienating than helpful. I do think it is an important question to ask however. Could we ever be at a point where it would be helpful to say that a wine is "emotional, but not mawkish... tell[ing] of pain, not reverie?" I kind of hope so.