Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: Educating Peter Part V, The Final Chapter

The last installment of my review will cross from factual mistakes to a more esoteric approach.
I have no patience for snobbery when it comes to wine.  People are intimidated, turned off and overwhelmed by overbearing blowhards who bully them into thinking they are not worthy.  This boorish behavior comes from all manner of wine drinkers but it becomes completely inexcusable when an expert in a teaching role chooses to do it.
My proudest moments in the business came when consumers thanked me for helping them actually understand more about wine because I talked to them clearly and plainly about a potentially confusing subject.  A few moments of belittlement can cause otherwise interested individuals to shut down and stop exploring the wonderful world of wine.
Ms. Teague should be held to the highest standards but she may have failed even if graded on a curve.  
"(For example, the word ouch is not considered a valid tasting term - although it was one of Peter's favorites and seemed to sum up his feelings about certain wines.)"  First of all, let's get one thing straight: There is no such thing as a non-valid tasting term!
Perhaps in the Master Sommelier or Master of Wine exam there may be some terms not acceptable but other than that, if the word you use describes your feeling about a wine, it's valid and you should use it!  Especially if it is as evocative as "ouch."  I loved that Peter used the word.  It meant something to him, it accurately depicted the impression he received from the wine and Ms. Teague should have encouraged his inventiveness.  She also might have armed him with a word or two that are more widely used, like sharp or tart or astringent or acidic...you get the idea.
This is the last example I will share from the book and I will let my original notes do the talking for me.  They follow her quote.  "Don't say bubbles, say bead, I reminded Peter.  And the collection of bubbles that forms at the top of the glass is a mousse, not a head, by the way."  My notes, verbatim: AAAAUUUGGGHHHH!!! First, say any damn thing you want as long as it makes sense.  Bubbles works fine and so does head.  Mousse - really, who says that?!?  This is exactly the sort of snobby, snooty, holier-than-thou bullshit that turns people off from learning about wine.  AND, by the way, Ms. Teague, you could not even go one sentence after chastising Peter without using the word bubbles!!!
It was at this point in the book that it occurred to me that Ms. Teague had little or no real interest in truly teaching Peter much of anything.  Her prime motivation seemed to be to ensure that he behaved like a proper little schoolboy in the presence of people she wanted to impress.  If he said all the "correct" terms around her friends she could bask in the glow of admiration and congratulate herself on a job well done.  Peter, meanwhile, has much to unlearn.

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