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Structure in Wine

Kevin Sweeney
p. 137-148


The lack of agreement about the meaning of common wine-describing terms such as structure has led to conflicting views about the ontological nature of wine as an aesthetic object. I argue that a wine’s structure is a dispositional property of that wine realized in the temporal organization of qualities centered in the middle palate of a taster’s gustatory experience. I defend this claim from those (e.g., Scruton) who argue that only experiences have such properties, not wines. I also oppose those (e.g., Kant) who hold that gustatory objects are hedonically experienced immediately and hence do not afford an extended temporal encounter. I follow Brillat-Savarin’s lead in arguing that gustatory experience has a progressive temporal character. Finally, I further articulate the theory that a wine’s structure is a temporal organization of qualities.

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1In recent years the nature of wine as an object of appreciative experience has provoked a fair amount of interest as a topic of philosophical discussion. Anthologies such as Barry C. Smith’s edited, Questions of Taste, and Fritz Allhoff’s edited Wine & Philosophy, as well as Cain Todd’s recent book, The Philosophy of Wine, have registered the diversity of philosophical opinions about the nature of wine. One of the contributing factors to such a variety of philosophical views has been the lack of agreement about the meaning of commonly used gustatory labels to describe the taste of a wine. This confusion about the meaning of these labels has contributed to a lack of agreement about the ontological nature of wine as an aesthetic object. A gustatory label that is commonly used to describe wine as an aesthetic object is structure. I propose to investigate the claim that wine has a structure, what I believe is meant by saying that a wine has a structure, and the implications that having a structure have for understanding the ontological nature of wine as an aesthetic object.

2The lack of clarity about the meaning of a gustatory label like structure continues to puzzle those who think and write about wine. In a recent article in The New York Times, wine critic Eric Asimov expressed concern about the unspecified meaning of the term structure and similar labels that are regularly used to describe wine. He notes:

  • 1  Asimov 2011: 4

The notion in question is structure, along with several related terms […] These are by no means big words, and they don’t convey complicated ideas. I use them a lot without thinking much about them. Yet when I tried to look up these terms in reference books, I could find very little1.

  • 2  Although there is no specific entry for structure in Robinson 1994, Lehrer quotes four different w (...)

3As Asimov points out, claiming, for example, that a fine Bordeaux or a magnificent Barolo has a certain structure is a common way of describing such a wine. Yet, puzzlement about what it means to claim that a wine has a particular structure persists in the minds of wine critics2.

4Certainly, the wine does not have a structure in the same way that a chemist might claim that quartz has a crystalline structure. Whereas quartz can be said to have a crystalline structure independent of our experience of the mineral, a wine’s structure is not apparent independent of tasting the wine. Since qualities such as the structure of a wine only become apparent once the wine has been tasted, some philosophers have claimed that in tasting and then describing the wine as having a particular structure, one is not really describing the wine at all but only describing one’s experience of the wine. Presumably, on that account an alleged property like a wine’s structure would be a property of the taster’s experience rather than a property of the wine itself.

  • 3  Scruton 2009: 124.

5A recent proponent of this view, Roger Scruton, writes that «while the art critics describe works of art, wine critics describe tastes, and wines are not represented in their tastes as artworks are represented in the way they look or sound»3. Scruton argues that an object’s visual and aural qualities represent that object – they are actual properties of the object – while the smell and taste of an object do not. He contends:

  • 4  Scruton 2009: 121.

We speak of smelling a cushion, but the smell is not a quality of the cushion. It is a thing emitted by the cushion, that could exist without the cushion, and indeed does exist in a space where the cushion is not – the space around the cushion. Hence smells linger in the places where their causes have departed. […] I don’t “sniff through” the smell to the thing that smells, for the thing is not represented in its smell in the way that it is represented in its visual appearance4.

6When we encounter the taste and smell of a wine, we do not, Scruton says, experience “through” the tastes and smells to the wine because tastes and smells are separate from their causal objects.

7First, I am not persuaded by Scruton’s argument for distinguishing what he claims are the objective properties of sight and sound from the sensory properties confined to our experience, smell and taste. While it is certainly true that a smell can linger after the object that has caused the smell has disappeared, the same can be said about visual and aural qualities of objects. Presumably when we gaze at the stars, not all the bright twinkles that we see come from stars that still exist. It is likely that we see light from stars that no longer exist. The same is true with sounds. We see the lightning flash and then disappear, but only later do we hear the sound of thunder produced by the lightning flash. Echoes also persist after the cause of the sound has ceased. I shout, and after I have stopped shouting, I then hear my echo reverberate from one wall of the canyon to the other. Thus, there is no good reason to distinguish sights and sounds from tastes and smells because the latter can be separated from their objects. Sights and sounds can be separated from their objects, too.

8Second, Scruton claims that smells – and presumably tastes too – «linger in the places where their causes have departed». Presumably, I swallow a wine and its taste and smell linger on my palate, and in their lingering I experience only the smells and tastes, but not the wine. While it is certainly true that tastes and smells can linger, one needs to point out that tastes and smells can also have an immediate sensory effect. We quickly register the nutty, slightly oxidized, nose of an Amontillado sherry when we sniff the wine, or we immediately taste the crisp apply acidity of a Chardonnay that has not undergone malolactic fermentation. This quick response to what we smell and taste suggests that, to use Scruton’s expression, we do sense “through” what we are smelling and tasting and ascribe those sensory qualities to the wine.

9Our being able both to register immediately certain qualities of a wine and to notice a lingering aftertaste of the wine after swallowing it, I believe, are distinctive of the form of sensory engagement we have with things that we ingest such as wine. Indeed, each specific sensory modality has its own special requirements for realizing its appropriate qualities. For example, sight has the specific requirement that an object be in a lighted environment in order to see that object’s color; hearing a sound does not require a lighted environment. Because there is such a difference, sight neither offers a greater nor lesser sensory engagement with an object than does sound. It only offers a different perspective, one in accordance with the requirements of vision as a sensory modality. Taste and smell have their own specific requirements as sensory modalities. Sensing the structure that a particular wine has, I believe, points out some of the features distinctive of the kind of sensory engagement employed in ingesting and appreciating a wine.

10Structure in a particular wine is a property actually possessed by a wine even though it is a property that is only realized when one sips the wine. The wine requires the sensory engagement of being ingested in order for its structure to be realized, and yet structure is still an actual property of the wine. The way to accommodate this seeming problematic situation of an unrealized aspect of a wine being an actual property is to hold that the structure of a wine is a dispositional property of the wine. That is, structure in a wine is potentially there in the wine resting in the glass and realized later when it is ingested by a discriminating taster.

  • 5  Gilbert Ryle appeals to dispositional properties in his account of mentality and recognizes the ma (...)

11Dispositional properties are fairly common properties of objects and appealed to extensively in scientific explanations5. For example, table salt is soluble because when salt crystals are placed in a liquid such as water they dissolve. Solubility is an actual dispositional property of the salt; however, the salt only dissolves and reveals its solubility when placed in a liquid. One might object that the wine’s structure is not a dispositional property because there are some differences between salt’s solubility and wine’s structure. The salt’s crystalline structure changes when the dry salt crystals are placed into the liquid, and one uses the same general kinds of chemical analysis to determine the crystalline structure of the undissolved salt and the structure of the salt in solution. Is there a comparable change in the wine from its state in my glass to its state after I ingest it and sense its structure? Also, don’t we use different senses to describe the wine in the glass and on the palate?

12Certainly there are some chemical changes that take place when the wine that I sip mixes with the saliva in my mouth, as well as when some of the wine vaporizes and affects my retronasal passages. However, while there are some differences between how one goes about identifying salt’s solubility and wine’s structure, there are enough similarities to support claiming that a wine’s structure is a dispositional quality. One needs to recognize that salt’s solubility is a physical property but that wine structure is solely an empirical property. That is, one can identify physical properties by tests that do not depend solely on sensory experience. For example, there are colorless, odorless gases that at certain temperatures one cannot perceive with one’s senses; whereas a wine’s structure is only perceived by one’s senses. Thus, as far as a wine’s structure is concerned, one should keep in mind that the most important change from glass to palate is that the wine when ingested now becomes a wine tasted and experienced as a gustatory object. Yes, we do encounter the wine in a different way when we taste it from when we look at it in the glass. What was potential in the pre-ingested wine has now been realized in the temporal process of ingesting the wine and appreciatively encountering it during the progressive physiological stages of alimentation.

13Structure is a term used to describe the organization of a wine’s qualities realized during the temporal process of ingesting and appreciatively encountering the wine. Of course, different wines can have different organizations of their qualities and hence have different structures. These different structural forms are created because of the different grape varietals or blends of varietals used to make the wine. Wines can also exhibit different structures on the palate depending on the specific regional style – as well as the personal style of a winemaker – that guides the making of the wine. In addition, the concentration of sugar, acid, extract, and non-organoleptic substances such as those produced by aging the wine in oak barrels, can all contribute to the particular kind of structure a wine might display. Nevertheless, all claims that a wine has a specific structure are claims that the wine has a particular organization of qualities that have been realized during the temporal process that takes place between the time one raises one’s glass to one’s lips and the time that one registers what one has swallowed.

14There are several accounts concerned with gustatory experience that pose challenges to this temporal and organizational theory of structure. I will refer to one as the Kantian challenge; the other I will label the false taste map challenge. The Kantian challenge takes the skeptical position that gustatory experience does not allow for registering different qualities at different times during ingestion. The false taste map challenge also raises doubts about the claim that there is an organization of temporally distinct qualities that can be realized in drinking a wine. Both challenges need to be discussed before the temporal organizational theory of structure is further articulated. In replying to these challenges, I will also introduce other features of structure.

  • 6  Kant 1987: 57-60.
  • 7  Idem: 55.

15First, the skeptical view that tasting a wine does not admit of a temporal organization of qualities is associated with Immanuel Kant’s aesthetic theory, although the basis for that challenge can be found in earlier eighteenth-century theories of critical taste. In the Critique of Judgment, Kant distinguishes between what he calls «the taste of sense» and the «taste of reflection»6. The taste of sense concerns those forms of appreciative experience that are based only on one’s personal pleasure taken in an object. The taste of reflection is the basis for evaluating something as beautiful, as an object that all people should experience pleasurably. Kant says that with the taste of sense one can only say that one finds the object “agreeable” Using a wine example, Kant says that if someone were to say that «canary wine is agreeable», that individual is only stating a personal preference for that wine which others might not like7. For Kant, gustatory objects can only be agreeable to an individual; they cannot be beautiful objects that all should admire.

  • 8  Idem: 61.
  • 9  Idem: 61-63.
  • 10  Voltaire 1970: 210.

16For objects that can only be experienced as agreeable, such as food and wine, Kant claims that the pleasure comes «first»8. One has an immediate hedonic response to the object. In contrast, when we experience beautiful objects by the taste of reflection, our pleasure only comes after we have imaginatively engaged with the object, an engagement that Kant refers to as the “free play” of the imagination9. In holding that the pleasure comes first with agreeable objects like wine and food, Kant is appealing to a widely-held eighteenth-century view that critical taste – the appreciation of art and nature – is metaphorically based on gustatory experience. It was claimed that in consuming and tasting food or drink there is a natural hedonic immediacy to our reactions. We taste or smell something and we immediately sense whether we like or dislike it. We don’t need to wait and spend some time pondering what our hedonic reaction should be. Voltaire claimed that there is a «striking resemblance between the intellectual taste and the sensual one; for as a nice palate perceives immediately the mixture of different wines, so the man of taste will quickly discern the motley mixture of different styles in the same production […]»10.

17Voltaire holds that when an accomplished taster ingests a complex wine, there is an immediate hedonic apprehension of what that person has tasted. He stresses that instead of experiencing a progression of qualities that over time might develop and lead to a change in, or further confirmation of, an evaluation, the taster experiences an immediate sensory impression which in a hedonic way expresses a judgment of the wine. Kant also holds that when one sips a wine there is an immediate hedonic sensory experience. On his view, there is no time for a temporal organization of different qualities to be realized in our experience. If there were, then presumably Kant would allow tasting certain wines to be occasions for an imaginative engagement with the wine and result in the pleasure experienced later. Of course, not all wines are complex. There are simple wines that, for example, deliver a single assertive acidic note and little else. These wines do present themselves on the palate in a way that produces an immediate hedonic reaction, usually a negative one. They also have either no definite structure or afford such little interest that one is inhibited from attributing any structure to them. Nevertheless, the Kantian claim that tasting a wine only yields an immediate hedonic experience and thus cannot be an experience in which one encounters a succession of various qualities that could change or further confirm one’s hedonic assessment seems inconsistent with the experience many have in drinking a complex wine.

  • 11  Brillat-Savarin 1978: 39.
  • 12  Writing in 1825, Brillat-Savarin was unaware of the recent discovery that there is a fifth taste, (...)
  • 13  Brillat-Savarin 1978: 38.
  • 14  Idem: 39.

18In the early nineteenth century, one of the first to urge an opposing view of gustatory experience to Kant’s view was the French gastronome, Brillat-Savarin. In his book, The Physiology of Taste, Brillat-Savarin first argued for an amalgamation of tastes and smells in our gustatory experience. He claimed that «smell and taste form a single sense», producing an experience we now commonly refer to as one of flavor11. Instead of there being four distinct tastes (sweet, sour, salt and bitter) and a separate set of smells, Brillat-Savarin held that much of what we claim to taste is a combination of taste and smell12. This amalgamation of taste and smell allows for a vastly increased number of qualities that one can sense during gustation13. He supported his claim by the observation that one cannot taste very well when one has a head cold and one’s nasal passages are blocked14.

  • 15  Idem: 40.

19Second, Brillat-Savarin argued that our human physiology which determines how we ingest and taste food and drink consists of a three-stage temporal process that lets us register different gustatory qualities at different stages of that process. He labels the three different stages of gustation, «direct, complete, and reflective»15 and describes the three stages in the following passage:

  • 16  Idem: 40

The direct sensation is the first one felt, produced from the immediate operations of the organs of the mouth, while the body under consideration is still on the fore part of the tongue.
The complete sensation is the one made up of the first perception plus the impression which arises when the food leaves its original position, passes to the back of the mouth, and attacks the whole organ with its taste and aroma.
Finally, the reflective sensation is the opinion which one’s spirit forms from the impressions which have been transmitted to it by the mouth16

20Brillat-Savarin was particularly interested to point out that this progression takes place during the tasting of a wine. Since the ingesting takes some time, one does not have, contra Kant, an immediate evaluative impression of what one is sipping. One’s sensory engagement with the wine is more contemplative or reflective. Brillat-Savarin describes the temporal process of drinking a wine in the following way:

  • 17  Idem: 40-41.

While the wine is in the mouth one is agreeably but not completely appreciative of it; it is not until the moment when he has finished swallowing it that a man can truly taste, consider, and discover the bouquet peculiar to each variety; and there must still be a little lapse of time before a real connoisseur can say, “It is good, or passable, or bad. By Jove, here is a Chambertin!”17.

21Brillat-Savarin’s tripartite temporal model of gestation opposes the Kantian model that insists on the immediacy of gustatory experience. The tripartite model allows for an extended temporal engagement with a wine and thus provides for the opportunity in appropriate circumstances for experiencing the structural organization of a wine’s qualities. However, the view that a taster encounters different qualities at different stages of the gustatory process met with another skeptical challenge, what I refer to as the false taste map criticism.

  • 18  Smith and Margolskee 2001: 39.

22The false taste map challenge to the temporal and organizational theory of structure begins with a consideration of a mistaken but widely believed theory (the taste map theory) about how we taste the four basic tastes. (The theory gained credence long before the recognition of umami as a basic taste.) According to this theory, one can map out on the human tongue specific areas where the taste receptacles are specifically sensitive to only one of the basic tastes. Supposedly, according to the tongue or taste map theory, one senses bitter qualities on the back of the tongue and sweet qualities on the tip of one’s tongue18. The theory is easily refuted since one can taste the bitterness of an aspirin tablet on the tip of one’s tongue rather than where the theory holds one should taste it on the back of one’s tongue. According to Smith and Margolskee,

  • 19  Idem: 39

researchers have known for many years that these tongue maps are wrong […]. In reality, all qualities of taste can be elicited from all the regions of the tongue that contain taste buds. At present, we have no evidence that any kind of spatial segregation of sensitivities contributes to the neural representation of taste quality19.

23Because the taste map theory is false, one might be inclined to reject the temporal organization model of structure as being a theory based on the taste map theory. One might hold that a taster does not encounter a temporal structure of gustatory qualities because a wine’s different qualities are not encountered in different specific regions of the palate that are only sensitive to a single basic taste quality. Such a skeptic might urge that one does not need to wait until later stages of the gustatory process to sense all of a wine’s qualities. They will be available to be sensed in one’s initial gustatory acquaintance with the wine.

24In reply to such an objection based on the rejection of the taste map theory, one needs to make three points. First, the taste map theory is a theory only about how one senses the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. It says nothing about how one senses qualities with one’s retronasal receptors. As mentioned earlier, much of what we sense in a wine are not the four basic tastes but olfactory qualities that we have the impression of being tastes. These flavors are sensed only after the wine has had time to vaporize so as to engage with one’s retronasal receptors. Even assuming that all the sweet, sour, and bitter qualities are sensed in the initial tasting of a wine, with some wines there is likely to be a temporal lag between when one senses the wine’s initial qualities and when one senses the wine’s flavors. Thus, in sipping some wines one is likely to notice some temporal progression and quite possibly the appearance of a structure.

25Second, while it is certainly true that we do not sense particular taste qualities only in specific regions of the palate, nevertheless, we do claim sometimes to experience a wine’s bitter qualities at different stages of the ingesting process. It is not unusual for individuals to report sensing the bitter quality of an Amarone or a young Chinon at the back of the palate, later in the tasting process, rather than initially. Marian Baldy explains that sensing phenomenon in the following way:

  • 20  Baldy 1997: 24.

Although taste receptor cells may not strictly specialize in receiving just one stimulus, the neural processing of taste stimuli from different parts of the tongue can be quite different, so our brains receive stronger information about specific tastes from different parts of the tongue. We know about the bitter taste mechanism in this regard: although the perception threshold for bitterness is actually lower in receptor cells on the tip of the tongue – making those cells sensitive to bitterness at lower concentrations – other receptor cells at the back of the tongue get more excited than the tip-of-the-tongue do by high levels of bitter stimuli and send more nerve impulses about bitterness to the brain20.

26Relative concentrations of a substance can lead to earlier or later sensing of the quality produced on the palate by that substance. The crisp or pronounced acidity of a Muscadet or Pinot Grigio catches our attention first when sipping those wines because of the concentration of that acidity. Thus, even though the taste map theory is false, when we do sip some wines we are apt to notice a temporal progression of qualities that in some cases form a structure.

  • 21  Baldy points out that carbon dioxide as the bubbles in a sparkling wine produce a tactile sensatio (...)

27Third, the false taste map challenge to the temporal organization theory of structure says nothing about an important component of our tasting experience, the combination of qualities that make up what is usually referred to as mouth feel. All of the following contribute to a wine’s mouth feel: qualities such as the astringency produced by a red wine’s tannins; the effects on the palate caused by storing a wine in oak barrels; the levels of alcohol, residual sugar, and extract in wine21. These tactile sensations, of course, are not sensed either by our taste buds or our retronasal passages; however, they are felt during the process of gustation and may take some time to make their presence known to us. As aspects of mouth feel, they contribute to our sense of a wine’s structure. As we ingest, savor, swallow, and then experience a wine’s aftertaste, structure is experienced as organizing and unifying the qualities sensed in this temporal gustatory process.

28Crucial to a wine’s having a clear and prominent structure is the wine’s exhibiting a middle palate that either introduces new qualities or develops previously sensed ones. Several conditions inhibit the realization of such a middle palate. First, the wine might be lacking in extract and only showing a single intense sweet or sour quality. In such a case, the wine lacks the complexity necessary to allow one to distinguish between the immediate impression of the wine and any later change or development which would constitute a middle palate. Under such conditions the wine lacks structure. Second, the wine might have so much fruit and extract – labels like monster wine or fruit bomb are frequently used – that the first impressions dominate the whole gustatory experience. With no evolution on the palate, the wine only has a forceful attack but little in the way of an evolving middle palate. Third, the wine might be a very young wine with considerable tannin that masks what will later come out as a developed middle palate once the wine’s tannin levels drop. Young Cabernet Franc wines from France’s middle Loire Valley often have a pronounced phenolic or bitter character that masks a complex middle palate. Only after a few years of age or considerable airing is such a middle palate revealed with these wines. Likewise, traditional-styled young red Bordeaux often have a pronounced tannic character that hides a middle palate, but with a few years of aging the wines change and reveal a complex middle palate.

  • 22  Idem: 104.

29The temporal organizational theory of structure identifies a wine’s structure as centered in the middle palate. It is in this central position on the palate that earlier and later qualities are coordinated and that the full complement of flavors is related to these earlier and later qualities. Perhaps because of the role of mouth feel in determining the particular character of a wine’s structure, the experience of structure is not solely described as a temporal sequence. One will often hear some critics referring to the architecture of a wine, commonly accepted as a reference to a wine’s structure. Other critics use different metaphors. «A wine’s structural components are sometimes referred to as its backbone», says Baldy, calling attention to another one of the several spatial metaphors used to refer to a wine’s structure22. Her account of structure excludes flavors, and it is interesting to try to understand why she claims so, since flavors are an important component of a wine’s sensory character. Perhaps the reason is that the flavors metaphorically would be the softer or fleshy organic parts for which the backbone provides the specific spatial positions. If one stays with the metaphor of structure as architecture, then the flavors would be the ornaments or furniture that occupy positions in the space of the structure.

30In a section of his book on wine entitled “The Vocabulary of Structure”, Emile Peynaud analyzes the architectural impression of structure. He claims that

  • 23  Peynaud 1987: 168.

when a taster works the wine in his mouth and feels it with his tongue, he absorbs not only sensations of taste but also impressions of volume, form, and consistency. He forms a physical image of the wine. […] Tasters agree that it conveys an impression of thickness, of structure. They talk of a wine’s profile, of its contours and its architecture as though the liquid had a design, a particular surface texture, an internal structure. A wine’s ideal form is the sphere, which represents a space in perfect equilibrium23.

31The architectural image represents an enclosed space, just as one’s mouth encloses a space, although from Peynaud’s description a wine’s architecture seems a more expanded space than the confined space inside one’s mouth. However, it is a metaphorical space that allows for a wine’s qualities to be related in terms of being closer or farther away from one another, or of being, as Peynaud points out, in “equilibrium”. It allows for a wine’s structure to be recognized as being a shorter or a longer space, also allowing that it is shorter or longer in the time it would take to traverse the space.

32Ultimately, spatial metaphors like architectural ones attempt to give greater depth to the experiential nature of encountering wine as an aesthetic object, one involving a hedonic assessment. Wine has to be understood as an object encountered with our senses, but it is also an object of pleasure. After we have an initial sensory encounter with it outside of our bodies, we encounter it with our senses of touch, taste. and smell, but in a way that still preserves its unity as a gustatory object and an object of aesthetic appreciation.

33In conclusion, my aim in this essay has been to argue that some wines have a structure and that this structure is a temporal organization of qualities centered in the middle palate of a taster’s experience of the wine. I have tried to defend this view from skeptics who would deny or minimize the temporal dimension of gustatory experience. In so doing, I have aligned myself with the followers of Brillat-Savarin who would insist on the temporal progression of gustation and allow for a contemplative assessment of what we consume. Nothing that I have said should be construed as claiming that wine is a stable or unchanging object. Not only does it change in the bottle, as well as in the glass, but it develops on the palate when ingested. I have sought to bring out wine’s character as a gustatory aesthetic object, one which reveals its character as it proceeds through the ingesting process of alimentation. An important aspect of wine as an aesthetic object and a significant component of its ontological temporal character is the way that structure can hold a wine’s developing qualities together as a unity.

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Allhoff, F.

– 2008 (ed), Wine & Philosophy: A Symposium on Thinking and Drinking, Oxford, Blackwell

Asimov, E.

– 2011, Friendliness isn’t always enough, “The New York Times”, Section D, 4, September 28th

Baldy, M.W.

– 1997, The University Wine Course, 3rd edition, San Francisco, Wine Appreciation Guild

Brillat-Savarin, J.A.

– 1978, The Physiology of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy [1825], trans. M.F.K. Fisher, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Kant, I.

– 1987, Critique of Judgment [1790], trans. W.S. Pluhar, Indianapolis, Hackett

Lehrer, A.

– 2009, Wine & Conversation, 2nd edition, New York-Oxford, Oxford University Press

Peynaud, E.

– 1987, The Vocabulary of Structure in The Taste of Wine, trans. M. Schuster, San Francisco, Wine Appreciation Guild: 168-171

Robinson, J.

– 1994 (ed), The Oxford Companion to Wine, New York-Oxford, Oxford University Press

Ryle, G.

– 1966, The Concept of Mind [1949], New York, Barnes & Noble

Scruton, R.

– 2009, I Drink Therefore I Am: A philosopher’s Guide to Wine, London, Continuum

Smith, B.C.

– 2007 (ed), Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine, Oxford, Signal

Smith, D.V. and Margolskee, R.F.

– 2001, Making sense of taste, “Scientific American”, 284: 32-39

Todd, C.

– 2010, The Philosophy of Wine, Durham, Acumen Press


– 1970, An Essay on Taste, translated from Voltaire’s article on taste in Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie [1757], in A. Gerard, An Essay on Taste, 2nd edition, 1764; rpt. New York, Garland, 207-217

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1  Asimov 2011: 4

2  Although there is no specific entry for structure in Robinson 1994, Lehrer quotes four different writers on wine who each give a different definition of structure (Lehrer 2009: 34-35). In “The Vocabulary of Structure”, Peynaud emphasizes the metaphorical character of the concept (Peynaud1987: 168). Further discussion of Peynaud’s views on structure will occur later in the essay.

3  Scruton 2009: 124.

4  Scruton 2009: 121.

5  Gilbert Ryle appeals to dispositional properties in his account of mentality and recognizes the major role such properties play in scientific explanations (Ryle 1966: 42-43, 116-119).

6  Kant 1987: 57-60.

7  Idem: 55.

8  Idem: 61.

9  Idem: 61-63.

10  Voltaire 1970: 210.

11  Brillat-Savarin 1978: 39.

12  Writing in 1825, Brillat-Savarin was unaware of the recent discovery that there is a fifth taste, umami. In an article summarizing research on the physiology of gustation and the chemical processes involved in tasting, D.V. Smith and R.F. Margolskee point out that umami is «the sensation elicited by glutamate, one of the 20 amino acids that make up the proteins in meat, fish and legumes. Glutamate also serves as a flavor enhancer in the form of the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG)» (Smith and Margolskee 2001: 32).

13  Brillat-Savarin 1978: 38.

14  Idem: 39.

15  Idem: 40.

16  Idem: 40

17  Idem: 40-41.

18  Smith and Margolskee 2001: 39.

19  Idem: 39

20  Baldy 1997: 24.

21  Baldy points out that carbon dioxide as the bubbles in a sparkling wine produce a tactile sensation and hence should be included in a wine’s mouth feel (idem: 39, 41).

22  Idem: 104.

23  Peynaud 1987: 168.

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Per citare questo articolo

Notizia bibliografica

Kevin Sweeney, « Structure in Wine », Rivista di estetica, 51 | 2012, 137-148.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Kevin Sweeney, « Structure in Wine », Rivista di estetica [Online], 51 | 2012, online dal 30 novembre 2015, consultato il 27 luglio 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/estetica.1402

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