All by itself, independent of how it comes about, exquisite taste is neither good nor bad. In my opinion, some things are worthy of cultivation and some seem like a foolish joke. Some exquisite taste just happens without cultivation and it is hard to condemn it, however trite it may be.
Young French children drink wine as American children drink milk. I doubt that American children can develop a preference for one brand of milk over another but I suppose French children can readily tell the difference among Bordeaux and Chardonnays, and perhaps they are encouraged to do so. So be it; and not much more can be said about that, however worthy or unworthy wine flavors may be.
As it happens, my father, being in the food business, brought home sturgeon, nova scotia lox and swiss cheese every Saturday. Before I was four years old, I could appreciate many differences. I could tell (if my memory is right, but I don’t guarantee it) whether cheese was aged six months or not at all. I think I can still tell differences. I regard this ability of mine as frivolous and wouldn’t mind at all if it evaporated suddenly.
I am dismayed when I think how many thousands of people take classes in wine tasting. It may be, for all I know, possible to make very discriminating distinctions between types of wine and, within types, brands. Even the ability to recognize the number of years a wine sits in an aging cask may be possible. My feeling, not shared by many, I suppose, is that this ability is DISGUSTING, mainly because it has to be worked at and it concerns a matter not worthy of anybody’s time and efforts and too often it is cultivated for despicable reasons, and you can guess what those are.
I don’t feel this way about music. It is a fact that some people with a natural passion for what I will haughtily call “great music” proceed to work hard at developing an exquisite taste for distinctions. Let them. I don’t think it is praiseworthy but neither is it cheap and vulgar. It does seem to me to be self-defeating. I have heard live performances of great music that for some of my companions misses the mark. Only a small percentage of concert goers can tell a fine performance by a great conductor from a somewhat lackadaisical performance by a somewhat less than great conductor. It strikes me that people with this exquisite ability are losing out if they cannot appreciate anything but the very best. For many years I used to listen to Sviatoslav Richter’s best performances of Beethoven’s Appassionata Piano Sonata, insanely bent on developing expertise in Richter’s style. Today, I wonder why. I will give you links to Richter and to one other professional performer and one amateur, and you can judge for yourself whether knowing the differences are worth a damn.
So my advice is this: Enjoy your cheese and don’t check the label to see how long it has been aged, enjoy your $10 wine and don’t make a move to the $20 variety. Go listen to music and don’t criticize if you can help avoiding that.
Life is short; eat cookies.
Richter – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ2J1eFM-Rs
Claudio Arrau - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdg-DT8rTUQ
Amateur performance – 1st movement only. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2edfqJnb8w