Wine, an idiosyncratic thing

An Australian gentleman once told me he didn't like a "busy wine". This was the first time I ever heard somebody use the term "busy" in reference to wine.

So I asked him what he meant. He said wine should be quiet to be enjoyed. It should stop busying itself with flaunting this woody smell or that floral scent or other aromatic notes to attract attention.

Although I found this line of thinking quite weird, I respected it. There was a strong likelihood that he associated fragrance with perfume and thus felt uneasy at the prospect of drinking perfume, which is certainly not appetizing.

Wine's ability to imitate assorted kinds of love-it-or-hate-it smells is remarkable, isn't it?

Indeed, wine-tasting is a extremely subjective, idiosyncratic and culturally sensitive activity. When top French wines were introduced to the uninitiated wealthy Chinese some decades ago, they mixed them with popular sweetened US soft drinks to enhance the taste.

While those well-versed in wine abhorred this, these rich Chinese were of course free to do whatever they wanted to do with the wines they purchased. After all, people buy wines not just for the joy of drinking, but for prestige and status as well.

Wine and food pairing, too, is highly individualistic, despite rules established by professionals in the industry.

Robert Mondavi Winery Chef Jeff Mosher, for instance, said that "If you have rich food such as beef bourguignon, you should not pair it with Pinot Noir". Even though Pinot Noir is Burgundy's signature wine, its delicate constitution makes it prone to being overpowered by any rich dish like the famously well-done beef stew.

Common sense also makes it easier to understand why no wine should be paired with a fiery dish prepared with a lot of chili.

"There are wines that are able to stand up to the heat of spices [such as nutmeg or ginger], but not chili," Mosher said.

When asked about whether a culture like Indonesia lacking a wine tradition should pair its often spicy and chili-rich food with wine, Mosher said, "Yes, if you enjoy drinking wine; you should be free to have wine with any food you like as long as you are comfortable with it".

In effect, Mosher was saying that you can spend your money on any wine you like and have it with any food you like regardless of what wine experts and professionals say, even if this leads to the unconventional pairing of beef steak and chardonnay, which some people in the US do.

"Wine pairing is very personal," he added. In other words, while it is important to exercise discretion, particularly in professional and public settings, it is equally important to be true to yourself. Don't let your personal preferences be dictated by another person's taste or opinion.