The Single Most Important Fact You Need To Know About Drinks

“Fact” is such a contentious word in our post-modern world. After all, what is a fact?

When you actually start to interrogate that question, it turns out to be not as simple as it seems. After all, a dog may be a dog to me, but it’s a chien to my Francophone downstairs neighbour.

How about this one? Queen Elizabeth I died on 24th March 1603. Or did she? Thanks to Pope Gregory XIII, the whole calendar changed in October 1582. But not for everyone because, you know, the Reformation and all that. Britain didn’t go his way, calendar-wise, for another 200 years. But that’s how we figure all dates now, historical or otherwise. So as far as Elizabeth was concerned, she died on 6th April.

Facts can be tricky buggers at the best of times.

To make matters moderately easier, here is my go-to definition of the world fact, courtesy of my old university supervisor, the late Thomas Wiedemann: a fact is that thing upon which we choose to agree so that we may have an argument.

To see this in action, one need only think about climate change.

It’s a big and complicated thing, and pretty much every scientist who has ever studied it in any detail at all will tell you it’s real and it’s happening. That this is a contentious issue comes down to one thing: those who don’t want to believe it, down to their vested interests in fossil fuels, chemical processing, you name it, do not accept the scientists’ facts. They have their own facts to support their case. Because they do not have facts in common, they cannot argue. So the problem remains, festering and unaddressed.

What has this to do with drinks, you ask.

Well… taste is subjective. When we speak of taste, we have to define what we mean. Are we talking about the sense of taste, or the experience of tasting?

In the case of the former, we understand the five key tastes our taste-buds detect: sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness and savouriness. But the latter involves our sense of smell as well. We process this combination of taste and smell to create the idea of flavour. And how we perceive flavour is unique to each of us. It is also an abstract concept which we only have language to describe. This is limiting. How many times, after  all, have you heard strange meats described as tasting “like chicken”?

When we describe flavour, we reach for simile and metaphor to try to put the idea of our experience into someone else’s mind. It is a form of telepathy limited by the constraints of our imaginations, our vocabulary and the language we speak.

It is as far removed from the concept of “fact” as it is possible to get. It is all, in fact, opinion.

Which brings us neatly back to the title. The Single Most Important Fact You Need To Know About Drinks is this: if you like it, it’s good.

That’s it.

You are the arbiter of your own mouth. It doesn’t matter if you’re tasting vintage Krug, Mateus rosé, bathtub gin or Louis XIII. Do not let some pontificating bastard (like me) sway you from your own judgement.

On this, I think we can agree.

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