I was trying to put into words today why I enjoy tasting wine (other than the obvious!). Maybe my mind was somewhat fuzzy since I had been tasting for the previous two hours, but that’s one reason it’s so interesting; it’s really hard to put smells and tastes into words. As I’m swishing, I’ll go through lists of adjectives, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, until one seems perfectly suited to what’s happening in my mouth. And even though we taste in flights so there is something to compare in each category, it still requires “palate-memory” to determine whether a wine has a long finish, or is balanced, or medium bodied. It’s like playing an instrument where you always need to have an idea in your head of what each note sounds like to stay on pitch. I have never thought of comparing tasting to the arts, but I see that there is a strong parallel. There is a slightly nebulous idea of good and bad, balanced and disharmonious, and it is a highly thoughtful, contemplative activity.
Beyond the analytical aspect, there is a strong sense of place that comes through in well-made wines. When I first heard the word “terroir” used, I thought it was an elitist term that only wine snobs used (and misused). But I now I see that all agricultural products have some aspect of terroir, and it is amazing to compare similar wines from different parts of the world. I can taste the sunlight, and the iron in the soil, and whether it was a wet or dry year. And then you realize that everything living has an aspect of terroir that endears it to a certain part of the world. And then here I am, back to my ongoing exploration of place and home, breathing a sigh of relief that my life makes some sense and isn’t as disconnected as I think it is.