Wine Snobbery Faces Dismal Future

On the NYT website this morning, the top health story, and #2 science story, is “Scientists Fabricate Rudimentary Human Livers.” Researchers in Japan “caution that these are early days and this is still very much basic research.” They can’t fool wine snobs, who are thoroughly panicked. While unlimited beverage alcohol consumption with few health consequences might seem to the thoughtless an unmixed blessing, such is not the case for the true “amateur” of wine. What purpose remains in distinguishing the finest terroirs of summertime French pink? Who can really care any longer about sub-sub librarianship of grand cru differentiation? Dr. Hillel Tobias of NYU Medical School, and chairman of the American Liver Foundation‘s national medical advisory committee, may believe in his heart that this is “a major breakthrough of monumental significance,” but there are losers as well as winners here.

The recent Guardian story claiming that wine tasting is “junk science” was troublesome. But it could be that a study of 6000 blind tastings in the Journal of Wine Economics had design flaws. If Dr. James Hutchinson of the Royal Society of Chemistry says that there’s “a lot of nonsense and emperor’s new clothes in the wine world,” well, we might say go stuff your royal society… But free replacement livers? Ya-hoo for the undiscriminating palate, perhaps–but for snobbery, an unending nightmare.