A tasting note on some wine I bought says it tastes like black pepper, but I don’t think it does at all. Is something wrong with me?


This question reminds me of the classic Shakespeare chestnut: “Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?” The answer to that is: it depends. Did Shakespeare spend all day drinking coffee before smelling the rose? Did he just get a new puppy? Was he ill? 

Any sensual experience is based in the projections and biases the sensual-experience-haver is bringing to the table. And that can be physical or emotional.

Wine isn’t meant to be only a representation of itself. What is in the bottle is asking for a relationship, and your mouth and brain are the component parts of that relationship. Depending on the state of your tongue, the way your olfactory receptors are attuned, what you’re eating, and how you’re feeling, a wine could taste pretty much like anything. Sure, Pinot Bianco will be fresh and acidic, but to a head cold-addled Shakespeare it could taste like lightly flavoured tap water. Trust yourself when you’re tasting a bottle – what’s in your head is what counts.  


Modello’s advice columnist Kathryn Borel is the author of Corked: A Memoir