Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Can you overdevelop your sense of smell?

I realize this is hardly timely, but I was thinking about this very issue recently and remembered this very interesting letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which I have excerpted here:

"Another interesting perspective is something I was told by Andy Waterhouse, who last year was vice chair and professor of enology at the UC Davis School of Viticulture and Enology. Waterhouse told me it is theoretically possible for someone to train himself to detect exceedingly low levels of TCA. When I asked why anyone would want to enhance the ability to smell or taste something nasty, he replied, "Good question! The problem is, by being ultrasensitive, you exclude a lot of wines you might otherwise enjoy."

Laube, in his position as one of America's most powerful wine writers, should, in my opinion, be extra careful before going public with these sorts of charges. As a senior sensory scientist at Vinquiry, a Sonoma County wine laboratory that competes with ETS (the Napa laboratory Laube uses to test for TCA), told me, "If (Laube) found TCA ... he might have said something to Gallo, on a personal aside. But to slash it in a national periodical is, I think, in poor taste and ethically questionable."

From SFGate Letters (link)

Most who follow the industry know that Laube "outed" Montelena, BV, and Gallo in recent years and that other prominent reviewers, such as the above letter's author and Robert Parker, have not found these same wines to be nearly as flawed. That led me to the question I was considering - "Can a person overdevelop their sense of smell?" Or, said differently, can a critic become so oversensitive to a flaw that they can become irrelevant to the public they try to serve? I haven't had the opportunity to taste many of the wines that Mr. Laube has recently trashed for "high" TCA levels, but I have tried a couple of the 2001 Napa Cabs that he disliked (immensely) recently and found them to be quite good, in my opinion, and not flawed by TCA. What, then, should be done by Wine Spectator? Is Mr. Laube finished as a taster? (there are rumblings, but they may be just that)

I, for one, think that the damage done to those who have been scored poorly by him for flaws undetectable to the average high-end wine consumer cannot be undone and that Mr. Laube should consider a future as an editor and writer, not as a reviewer.


Anonymous Cabber said...

I agree, Laube's reviews regarding TCA "taint" are irrelevant to mere mortal sniffers. See related thread in WS online:

April 28, 2005 4:29 AM  

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