From week to week, guests queue up at the Formaggio Kitchen tasting table to sample a few wines from our shelves, chat about their respective merits and demerits and decide what they might enjoy taking home. It’s a ritual we count on to introduce guests to wines that we think are worthy of their dollar. After all, if they’re in our shop, it means we thought them worthy of our dollar.
How someone makes a decision about a wine may be a closely-guarded secret, but listening carefully to the way a guest talks about wine provides some clues. I’ve noted at least three schools of practice. Here’s how I parse them.
The boo/hurrah school. Students of ethics have long been confronted with a problem that goes something like this: When we describe one behavior as good and another as bad are we making objective judgments about the state of things in the world, or are we really just shouting out our personal preferences? If we take the position that ethical judgments are really just expressions of our attitude rather than statements of fact, we’re engaging in something moral philosophers call emotivism.
According to this view, saying something is good really just means we approve, like, or enjoy it – we give it a “hurrah.” To say that something is bad implies the opposite, and we give it a “boo.” The technique is emotive because we’re reacting on an immediate, instinctive level. Often, we’ve decided to like or not like even before we’ve had time to engage in any thought process at all.