Saturday, March 5, 2016

Why Doesn't It Taste Like... Part 1

So you taste the wine in the fancy restaurant, at the mountain cabin, or in Europe, Napa, Rio de Janeiro, or wherever and surprise, surprise, the wine doesn't taste as good now that you've bought it locally.  What on earth could be the problem?

Some form of this situational mindbender is regularly presented to the guy in the wine store, like he can account for all of the factors responsible for your disappointment.  In fact, there's a slew of monkey wrenches gumming up the works here.  Let's separate them into tangible and intangible categories.


The obvious reality is that you are no longer in Rio or wherever.  You are in America, that most capitalistic of countries, and you are stressed out for all of the same reasons the rest of us are, financial reasons being somewhere in the forefront of all of our collective consciousness.  You aren't feeling the breeze through your hair in the mountains or wading in the water on the beach and you sure aren't in some quaint Alpine village sipping the wine with the traditional foods they have always been paired with.   You are here now and your baggage has arrived ahead of you.

Moreover, unless you are in the wine business, you are probably moderately insecure about your wine knowledge, like this silly tasting business is something important and a must-master cultural touchstone.  Let's demystify.  While there really is a deep, deep well of objective wine knowledge that is there to be plumbed if that is your desire, there is also the pure enjoyment of the beverage.  In America (and everywhere else) when we taste we bring into the present our mood based on what happened prior to pulling the cork.  Weather and traffic, anyone?  We bring our expectations (see paragraph 1) into a present that already includes distractions like sights, sounds, and smells in the air and, of course, interpersonal exchanges both positive and negative.  In light of all of the above, how can the wine taste like you remembered it?

And just how reliable is your memory anyway?

As we taste more and more different wines we do accrue reference points for categorizing and evaluating wines, perhaps giving us a false sense of security in an ever changing wine landscape.  And while we profess to be hard at work perfecting our palate, why is it that when we think about enjoyable wine we keep going back to the one that was in the paper cup at the ballgame that day.

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