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Anyone can be an expert?

A recent comment in one of this community’s discussion threads reads thus

"Gone are the days when you had to buy books to learn stuff, now the essence of the subject is bandied around pages such as these.
*Anybody with a few hundred pounds can become an instant expert by subscribing to one or more of the best PTV websites".

Is this true? Can one really become a wine expert without leaving the computer screen?


No. Load of nonsense.



I agree, you cannot become an expert, but you will nevertheless claim you are an expert. When I say you, I don’t mean you or me…


You can be very knowledgeable, in the same way you can know a language. But you will never really be an expert until you have lived in the country where it is spoken.

On the other hand, it is possible to be an expert on the subject of the Moon, without being an astronaut.


Let’s take the questions individually, and assume you actually drink and taste wine too.

Can you get the essence of the subject from this Community? - Yes I think you probably can - with the stress on the word “essence”.

Can you become a wine expert without leaving the computer screen? - It depends a bit what you mean by “expert”. But probably yes - you can do all manner of things using a computer - including reading books and talking to winemakers. There are probably more fun ways, but it’s more about personal commitment than the medium. Think what Stephen Hawking managed to achieve in his latter years (albeit with the computer going round the world with him attached to his wheelchair).

Can you become an instant expert by subscribing to one or more of the best PTV websites? - It’s impossible to become an instant expert on anything, and I doubt PTV channels would help you much at all, even over a number of years.

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Not everyone can be an expert, but anyone can be an enthusiast.


An expert is someone who knows more than you.


An expert is a combination of:
‘x’ - the unknown quantity, and
‘spurt’ - a drip under pressure…


Can anyone be an expert? Yes.

The barriers to information have been lowered and the custodians of knowledge are changing, but it still takes a lot of time, effort and (which I think you’re alluding to) experience. I think that all the courses, websites and other information make it easier to get some of the tools to become an expert. It’s the same as doing a degree in something and doing it as a job. The degree gives you the tools to become an expert in your field, but it’s only actually doing it that allows you to become one.

On the other hand, you do not need to be an expert to have a level of knowledge worth sharing, or have valid input into conversations. I have worked with people widely considered experts (including several Nobel laureates and people with other hefty gongs in their fields), the one thing they all have in common is how interested they are in what other people have to say.


Also consider the age group you’re talking about have been over examined their entire lives. We’ve been told from as young as 4 that you need qualifications, so what do we do? We go and get qualifications.

The downside to this, as we’ve both alluded to, is that qualifications alone don’t actually make you an expert in anything. There’s a fundamental gap between what we’ve been sold and the real world (and I’m now in my 40s and I’m still being sold this - “maybe if you did an MBA…” like my two masters degrees and a PhD aren’t enough, before we even get onto all the professional and extra-curricular stuff e.g. wine or the fact that I’m a qualified weightlifting judge). A lot of people have put a lot of work in to doing things in the hope of getting some kind of foot in somewhere in an incredibly unstable and devalued market.

I am not doing an MBA.

(but I am debating doing a history degree).


Definitely. Within my family I am a wine expert.
Then I look here and realise just how little I know.


Is it desirable to be an “expert”?

I’m old enough to have met a number of experts in various fields, and when the area under consideration is subjective I’d suggest that it can become a barrier to enjoyment.

I think there’s a sweet spot, where you become an informed enthusiast.

Where exactly that spot is varies from person to person. Recognising it can lead to wine contentment, one step on the journey to nirvana. :raised_hands:


Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (and also his better known, but not as good IMHO, Black Swan), and Philip Tetlock’s Superforecasting are both brilliant books on this wider subject. They’re thoroughly thought-provoking.


and that’s exactly what category I’d volunteer for. The French would call a wine enthusiast an “amateur”, literally “Une personne qui aime, cultive, recherche… (quelque chose)…” and I don’t think we have an exact equivalent in English.

I’ve been a wine “amateur” for what, 4 decades and counting, and have visited, tasted, discussed and quizzed, in 50 or so different wine producing countries or islands over the years, including every AOP region of France alone, and many several times over, and NO WAY would I describe myself as an expert. My only claim to competence is that I can hold a conversation with a French winemaker in their native tongue and not appear too much of an idiot in the process.

To even approach Expert status, as well as knowing all the history, theory and facts, you would need to have done the footwork too, and got your hands dirty in the vineyard and cellar.


Isn’t superforecasting what Dominic Cummings fetishized?

Personally, I prefer Game Theory :sunglasses:

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I take the stance that there is no such thing as a wine expert.
A person can gain knowledge about viticulture, winemaking, labels, soils, climate, wine laws and all that stuff but wine is always more than a sum of its parts.
I have spent the last 3 years doing WSET courses, I got a distinction at WSET level 3 in all the papers and have passed with merit the first papers of the Diploma, I make no pretence that I know anything more than anybody else on this forum. I simply followed the ghastly WSET prescriptive formula about tasting and theory and knowing how to answer exam questions.
I simply make two points.

  1. You drink the wine and your palate will not lie to you. It will tell you straightaway if you like the taste or something about it is horrible.

  2. Wine, like music, is always more than a sum of its parts. You can analyse in language aromas and flavours by words that are no more than labels but those labels are no more than expressions of common convenience. We can babble on about red fruit, black fruits, medium tannins and all the rest of it but wine is simply more than that. If we could reduce it to words there would be no point in drinking it.

What is an expert? Someone who has a lot of knowledge about component parts. That knowledge means nothing if you do not like what you taste.

Knowledge should be used to help us explore further and find our own way. Never be impressed or overawed by what somebody may know. Just keep exploring and trying different wines.

Wine is a shared pleasure.

People may say “I know what I like” when in fact they are saying “I like what I know”.

Thousands of books have been written about wine, and I have no doubt many more will continue to be spewed out but your own adventure is the only thing that will help you. Just try something different and then read about it afterwards. The stories about growers and vineyards are fascinating in themselves but they are secondary.

Forget scores, forget critics. just pick out bottles and try them. Wine, like great music is a never ending journey of joy, disappointment, but above all a sensuous pleasure.


I am a member of this club…probably along with everyone else on this forum :grinning:


Only if you drink whilst you are at your computer :wink:

but then beware of stray posts, random Amazon purchases and won eBay auctions !


I only bought a sports car once, OK.


Spoof headline in The Onion says

“Wine expert only person at party not enjoying the wine.”

Apologies for the thread drift but I thought this was very funny.