Senses open. Descriptors flitting and nesting within your brain. Noticing brings meaning and ultimately peace, balm in our hurried world. Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer agrees, and suggests we practice mindfulness, the “simple act of actively noticing things” (more here).
I propose that engaged wine tasting is mindfulness, a means to appreciate the fullness of life. “Ahh, bah humbug.” I hear the calls for sanity. “Wine is wine. You like it or don’t. Stop overanalyzing.”
I refuse to oversimplify our experience. Quality certainly exists, and so does its antithesis. If you like a Slider at White Castle, fine and dandy. It doesn’t make the burger high-quality, however. If you open your senses and mind to the experience of eating that Slider, you will likely agree (1). We consume mindlessly.
Noticing improves our life. This is a reason I admire passionate birders, wild foragers, hunters, yogis, rock climbers, golfers, et al. These folks slow the clock and absorb the task at hand. Focused wine tasting can serve this purpose.
I recently finished True Taste: The Seven Essential Wine Words by Matt Kramer. The book asks us, as wine drinkers, to open our minds to a more expansive view of wine tasting and critiquing. Kramer suggests we can use six words to hone our awareness and thinking: harmony, texture, layers, finesse, surprise, and nuance. These words help us think deeply without wasting time on the frivolous. Can a white wine taste like “Meyer lemon”? Yes. Does “lemon” suffice as a descriptor? Yes. Does the description “aromas of Meyer lemon” tell us anything about quality? Indirectly at best, and most likely no. Herein lies the significance of the six words. Quality wines exhibit many of these six elements. Stellar wines, those that haunt and tickle our memory, define those six words. Of course, antonyms serve well to describe wines lacking significance–discordant, one-dimensional, and iron-fisted, for example.
I recommend True Taste. Read and you will better understand the subtleties found in each of Kramer’s six words as they apply to wine. Ultimately, the book helps you enjoy wine, and better articulate its. . . layers. This awareness stimulates our bodies and minds, while also helping us better assess the wines we drink.
Savor this world; respect it with your engagement.
1. Mediocre food can, of course, hit the spot. Average, bulk wines also serves this purpose. Conversely, you may personally dislike a medium-rare, well-aged filet mignon, just as you may find a well-prized Chateauneuf du-Pape distasteful.