I used to watch a series on TV called “White Collar. In one of the episodes “Bottlenecked” an old bottle of wine had to be forged, to pull off a scam. An interesting fact was mentioned about authenticating wine made before the atomic era. That is that the element Cesium 137 exists as a result of a nuclear fallout.
The article is very interesting and also details the Cesium 137 test, for determining if wines were made before the atomic era, i.e. that it does not contain Cesium 137.
It would seem, such as in many other walks of life, that the wine scene is also very prone to fraud.
More coveted vintages or very rare and old wines are more often (than what we as the normal wine consuming public may realise), counterfeited. The rich and affluent collect these items and rely on auction houses (such as Christie’s) and other professionals to validate and authenticate these wines, before purchasing, that is paying an exorbitant amount. More often than not, these wines are never drunk.
My wife has a much more acute taste than me. I can however taste that different wines are different. Sometimes I listen to programs on radio, where a panel of experts taste wine, to hear things like “on the nose” and “undertones of..” etc. What I have noticed though, in my humble opinion, is that I could be tasting a specific red on different occasions, having a completely different experience in taste.
As with any natural gift or ability, rarely can training acquire such an equivalent. It is no different for one’s ability to discern taste. In this world, there are people employed for their ability to discern tastes. We find that in the coffee, tea and the wine industries. I can never hope to have the same experience, when I bring a glass of wine to my lips, than these professionals who posses a naturally magnified ability for this purpose. We can only imagine that they experience…such and such on the nose, with undertones of black berries and citrus, etc. I taste wine, with some variance, but nothing as pictorial as these individuals describe.
Because collectors hardly ever drink their wine and when they do, they have no palate or nose in any proportion to their wealth, that they can leverage to determine (let alone appreciate) the authenticity and character of the liquid. There is also such a span of variance between bottles, the psychology of the mind, the mood and the weather that influence an individual’s perception and experience. Who can say what I am tasting? It’s like perceiving what a colour looks like to another person.
This makes the wine industry such a snooty one. However and whomever is saying what about a bottle, to a large extent, determines its appreciation by the broader public. I suspect that the very affluent or intelligent (given the complexity of taste) cannot be excluded from our general pool of ignorance, when it comes to the absolute appreciation of a particular wine.
Interestingly, while reading this, I made a parallel correlation to the scientific community. The correlation I am drawing is between the tasting of substances and the determination of origins, e.g. our planet, the universe, human being and determining the age of things.
The article on the Jefferson Bottles, mentions the Cesium 137 test as well as the Carbon-14 age tests that may be performed on wine. The statement “..carbon dating can’t provide a reliable determination of the age of wines bottled during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries…it did not provide absolute proof that the wine dated to 1787” and “it seems rash to extrapolate from the results of one bottle anything about the authenticity of the others”, is one we often see punted by creationists such as AnswersInGenesis. Unlike in the science of paleontology, I find it surprising to see this comment in a wine article. It probably is said, because of the relatively small age of the wine, compared to a dinosaur skeleton and the accuracy of the Carbon-14 test.
With the exception of naturally imbued wine tasters, most people’s experience of wine, is subjective to the extent of their taste ability, in comparison the expert’s (assumed) objective taste as the reference. So for most buying a bottle of wine or assuming the intrinsic character is to rely on what someone else has said about it.
Reading the article on the Jefferson wine, opens up an understanding about how we as plonk wine enthusiasts, appreciate wine, refer to the Las Vegas party and the three bottles of 1982 Pétrus and the wine tasting experiment by Frédéric Brochet.
Is the scientific community any different, where it comes to the esoteric of sciences, such as creation (or in their vocabulary evolution), when determining authenticity and age? They employ methods that approximate age and declare those as accurate. Yet when using Carbon-14 to determine the age of wine, it is not reliable?
Do scientists (I don’t even have to ask that question about the public) not rely much on who said what, to accept a matter as fact? Just as the wine is tasted and marketed, we buy it on that recommendation and assume that, that is what it is. This is without the ability to taste the same and verify, even corroborate the findings of the taster. Is the scientific community not subjected to the same variations that exist between bottles of wine (of the same vintage) in nature, when extracting samples of things from which they extrapolate on the results and broad base it? We are all human and susceptible to the same delusions.
In my view, I find a lot of speculative assumptions that are made about wine, with lots of variations and rampant fraud. I don’t see much variation, where I apply my thoughts about the scientific community, where they attempt to explain creation and the age of things.