The AP reported an interesting tidbit recently in the world of winemaking – interesting enough to be picked up by several other news sources, anyway:
Ilja Gort, the flamboyant Dutch owner of Bordeaux’s Chateau de la Garde, has insured his insured his nose (and sense of smell) with Lloyd’s of London, to the tune of 5 million euro (which my sources calculate to be close to $8 million USD – but by May could be more like $4.7 billion, if the U.S. dollar keeps dipping at its current nasty rate!).
Those of you who follow along with this blog even semi-regularly would likely deduce that the Dude here would be planning some blithe and pithy schnoz-related jokes about this topic, make you laugh a bit, and then be on his way.
But you’d be way wrong…
Sure, it would be a blast to spend a page or two pointing out Gort’s insurance policy caveats that prevent him from doing some things that would look totally awesome on a resume (most notably, he is not permitted to be employed as a knife thrower’s assistant or as a fire-breather – two things that I would kill to be able to put in the hobbies section of my CV).
But I think it’s much more interesting to discuss what Gort’s policy represents in the grander scheme of the winemaking world.
To me, Gort’s actions highlight a interesting – and keenly relevant – fact: in a marketplace that seems obsessed recently with trying to scientifically quantify the components that make up a truly excellent wine, winemaking remains (more than ever) more Art than Science.
Sure, Gort is no stranger to publicity, but he’s no dummy either. Part of putting the value of his schnoz on such public display was to make the point that “his sense of smell is his wine taster asset.”
This is a stark contrast to non-human techno tasters that can supposedly distinguish a wine’s quality and origins, or to robots that can “taste” quality wine. Not to mention robot wine tasting machines with bee noses (ok, that one’s a stretch, but read the article and it will make a bit more sense…).
I found it refreshing that, in an industry where so many sciences are required to be mastered just to make a quality product (geography, geology, agriculture to name but a few), someone is calling attention to the fact that a winemaker’s nose and intuition are the simplest – and greatest – tools that she or he can bring to the tasting table.
That’s because the greatest machine ever constructed for the purpose of wine appreciation is all organic – it’s called the human.
Man vs. Machine?
Puh-leeeze. No contest!
My money’s on the guy with the real nose (all $8 million worth of it).