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Expert states truths about wine, wine snobs and wine critics

Wine is subjective. It's a matter of personal taste and everybody's tastes are different. This is not just a question of personal preference. It has a lot to do with how we are hard-wired.

For example, the average recognition threshold for sugar is 1percent. At 1 percent sugar, half the population will recognize a wine as "sweet" while the other half will either have recognized sweetness below that concentration or need additional sugar to acknowledge its presence.

This is why two people drinking the same wine can have markedly different perceptions. One wine drinker will swear that the wine is sweet. The other will swear that it is dry as a bone. Lab analysis will not sway anyone's conviction because wine is subjective. It doesn't matter what the numbers say, perception is all.

Wine police are evil creatures. They sneak into a party and stare into your glass and sniff derisively. They only drink the cult cabernets with triple digit Parker scores. Don't be deterred. Drink what you like. And don't apologize.

Most wine snobs have more money than sense and have inferiority complexes to boot. Breathe easy. Wine is meant to be enjoyed. It is meant to be fun. And if you are enjoying it, you've got a good thing going. Don't let anyone rain on your parade.

Read. But read to be informed, not to find out what to buy. You are your own best wine critic. Only you know your palate preferences. Only you know what pleases you most. Read to find out how to best articulate your likes and dislikes. Read in order to expand your wine-drinking horizons.

Every wine writer has certain preferences. Some like high acid, mineral wines with moderate alcohol and a long, lingering finish. They like subtlety and nuance. Other writers like more hedonistic, luscious, voluptuous offerings that hit with high impact, upfront fruit and monster tannins.

If you follow wine writers, follow those that consistently recommend wines that you end up liking. Don't change yourself to suit the press. Pick the press that matches your palate preferences!

Taste wine. But more importantly, smell wine. Smell comprises 80 percent of what we call flavor. Swirl that glass. Sniff that glass. And don't fill the glass so full that you can't do both.

And speaking of noses — don't turn them up at screw caps or bag-in-the-box packaging. The first was developed in order to eliminate TCA-taint, the second in order to keep wine fresh inside an "open" container and to minimize a carbon footprint. You will recognize the good stuff from the cheap stuff by the price tag on the box or bottle.

Lastly, do not underestimate the role of wine at table. It turns a meal into a dining experience. It turns a quick bite into slow food. There is conversation and sharing vs. zap-a-meal and television.

Something very special happens when a cork is popped. Don't wait for a holiday for this metamorphosis to take place at your home. Integrate wine into your weekly regimen. You'll be amazed at the metamorphosis in your life.

And invest in nice stemware. It doesn't have to be expensive. Just something that appeals to the eye and feels good in the hand. It makes every sip a pleasure and decorates the table in a subtle, simple way. Instead of a "big night out," you can simply have a "big night" in.

My last column is next week. I have loved writing for you all these past eight years and I will always be available to answer your burning wine questions at thewinekey@aol.com. Hugs and happy holidays!

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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