Sancho Panza fancied himself a wine connoisseur of rare ability. Challenged on his claim to have a 'great natural instinct in judging wines', he assured a sceptic that you 'have only to let me smell one and I can tell positively its country, its kind, its flavour and soundness, the changes it will undergo and everything that appertains to a wine'. It was, he said, an innate ability, especially pronounced on his father's side of the family, which had two of the best wine-tasters in all of La Mancha. Sancho told the sceptic a story demonstrating just how remarkable a skill this was. Some doubtful villagers
gave the two of them some wine out of a cask to try, asking their opinion as to the condition, quality, goodness or badness of the wine. One of them tried it with the tip of his tongue, the other did no more than bring it to his nose. The first said the wine had a flavour of iron, the second said it had a stronger flavour of leather. The owner said the cask was clean, and that nothing had been added to the wine from which it could have got a flavour of either iron or leather. Nevertheless, these two great wine-tasters held to what they had said. Time went by, the wine was sold, and when they came to clean out the cask, they found in it a small key hanging to a thong of leather; see now if one who comes of the same stock has not a right to give his opinion in such like cases.
LRB 3 February 2005 | PDF Download