Philosophy of Taste - Think, Drink & Be Merry

At the Wine Rack

With Christopher Reckord

Thursday, August 23, 2012    

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Last week Diageo hosted a tasting of their Guatemalan rum Ron Zacapa 23 to a large turnout at Bin 26 Wine bar in the Devon House Courtyard. Healthy discussion and debate ensued around the topic of how this Zacapa 23 tasted in comparison to fine aged rums produced locally and in the rest of the Caribbean.

I had just recently read documents on the philosophy of wine, including some of the papers presented in the book titled "Wine and Philosophy - a symposium on Thinking and Drinking", so I posed a few questions that were inspired by these papers.

Questions of Taste

In the days of Socrates and Plato, the symposium was a central part of Greek culture. The Greek word sympotien literally means ' to drink together'. The Greeks did not drink wine during dinner, but rather after - the symposium where the great thinkers gathered to drink wine and discuss the issues of the day. These debates and deep discussions laid the foundation of what would become western culture.

Fast-forward to modern wine and rum tastings, we are still debating matters of taste and forming our own options that will lead to lifelong beliefs. As I sipped the Zacapa 23 I asked some philosophical questions while the Diageo reps told the Zacapa story to patrons as they tasted the rum:

— Does knowledge about the rum or wine make it taste better?

— Do the expert and the novice drinker have the same enjoyment and experience while consuming the product?

Does our enjoyment of the rum increase after they tell us that the Zacapa Rums are made using the concentrated first-pressing sugar cane juice-called "virgin sugar cane honey" by the company-and is aged and blended using the solera method traditionally used for sherries? They go on to explain that this process is overseen by female master blender Lorena Vazquez. (There are only three female master blenders in the world, and Jamaican Joy Spence of Appleton is one.) The company claims that part of their success lies in the fact that the barrels are stored 2,300 metres (7,500 ft) above sea level in an aging facility situated below the upper slopes of the mountains and volcanoes of Guatemala, where the temperature is an average of 62 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius).

Questions to ponder

— Is all intoxication the same? Is "wine drunk" the same as " red rum drunk" or " white rum drunk" ? — What about being naturally high off of fun and laughter with family and friends?

— An important question for those in the business of wine and spirits sales and marketing - Is the taste of a rum or a wine just an immediate and maybe incommunicable experience?

— Which leads to my final question: Can you rely on so-called expert tasters to tell us what the characteristics of the wines or these fine rums really are?

Here are Zacapa's notes for the Zacapa 23, you taste and make the comparison:

Colour: Dark Mahogany.

Body: Dense, with marvellous complexities of aroma and flavour; thick legs that fall slowly.

Nose: Great intensity, sweet with notes of wood. Sweet fruitiness, vanilla, almond, chocolate, toasted wood and delicate hints of spice.

Taste: Dense and exceptionally balanced, very long aftertaste.

Finish: Attractive and evocative. Elegant and noble.

Drink Responsibly.

Chris Reckord - Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to Follow us on twitter: @DeVineWines @Reck



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