51 Of Working Out and Wine
Wine is fun. We all know this. But wine is also serious work. I am not just talking about the seemingly endless hours put in in the vineyards. Yes good winemakers are in the vineyards often, and great ones have the dirt embedded under their fingernails, where it never seems to leave. But more than that, drinking wine is work. It really is. Stay with me now. Of course the task of selecting, opening, decanting, and then repeatedly curling your wine glass, a kind of regressive weight lifting if you will. Nevertheless there is more. Your ability to taste and enjoy wine not passive in nature; it is active. As active as a toddler on a sugar high bouncing around the room and it needs attention as such too.
Look, I hate working out. I actually abhor it. I’d rather write a series of esoteric Montaignian essays on the importance and influences of toes throughout history and why we should honor them above all other things in life. When asked to work out by my wife I immediately find everything else that could need attention in my life and give it the utmost consideration. However when it comes to working out for wine this is another story altogether, I take the utmost seriousness with this subject.
Tasting is as much an art as it is science, sure wine is subjective in nature, everything in life is, which is why it is important to actively work out with it. When you first began tasting wine you likely did not “taste” it, you were more than likely drinking it. Overtime you grew and improved on your knowledge. Say you want to start running marathons or lift weights. You do not start out by running 26 miles knowing that the last .2 will be a cinch. Nor do you start out a weight training program by power lifting 400 pounds. In the same manner one does not begin training ones palate in wine by diving into Barbarescos or vintage Burgundy. You train your tongue and mind for wine. It may sound funny but really, like anything in life worth doing, it takes time and effort. Look at what you drink now compared to what drank ten years ago or back on what you used first began dabbling in wine.
I would bet that you drink differently now
Now, to start training. I do not claim to be the Mr. Miyagi or Micky Goldmill of wine trainers, nor do I expect you to be Danial LaRusso or Rocky Balboa respectively. But I do have some ideas about how to go about training your palate in wine.
First, and foremost, drink wine, but do not guzzle it. Taste, at least when you first open and try a bottle or glass. Continually tasting builds memory. Thus have wine often, it does not have to be expensive wine but it should be something palatable and something you can enjoy. Repetition is key here, and I think we can all agree that drinking wine with regularity is a hell of a lot easier than keeping that New Year’s resolution to hit the gym in the early hours of the morning.
Second, drink different wines. You do not grow or “have gains” by drinking the same wine each and everyday. If you drink the same wine everyday then you are having a beverage, like drinking Diet Coke or Milk, you are not challenging yourself and growing. Just like lifting a two pound dumbbell does not build considerable muscle nor does walking or running one lap around the track make one a marathon runner…. Or so I am told.
Third, build that nose and be active about it. It is Spring time (finally), so visit the Farmer’s Markets or on rainy days visit the produce section of Whole Foods or Wegmans and stick your nose into some produce. Literally wake up and smell the flowers (your sense of taste and smell can be over loaded and thus they are most fresh in the morning hours), also smell the herbs, fruit, and veggies (and try the samples). Get those aromas in your head. Learn them, remember them, it is important.
Why it is important you may ask? Well smell is as important to actually tasting wine as taste is. Anyone who has had a cold or allergy problems can tell you that when you cannot smell you cannot taste for shite. It is also important because you are building smell and taste memories. So that when you are try a wine you are not rehearsing the lines Chris Pine’s character Bo used in Bottle Shock when tasting Gustavo’s wine for the first time.
Bo - “It's good.”
Gustavo - “Good? What kind of an opinion is that?”
Bo – “A good one.”
I want you to be able to try a wine and taste more than just unidentifiable flavors. I want you to be able to pinpoint smells and tastes, to pick out the little nuances and notes. Believe me, you want to be able to do this too. It is those “notes” that build a melody which makes tasting wine into more than just sipping fermented grape juice but into a harmonious concert in a glass.
The concert is happening with or without you, and you already bought a ticket to the event when you ordered that glass or brought home that bottle. So open up your mind and palate and tune in. At first complex wines might sound/taste like there is too much happening in the glass – a bit like Free Jazz, but given time and attention they will open up to something like a stunning concert. Not all concerts are the same and just like music there are wines of different tastes. Some bottles contain classical renditions of Bach or Tchaikovsky, while others a harmonious jazz Quartet in balance, but still a real intellectual exercise. Still there are wines that are an arena filled venue with The Boss headlining. Big, Loud, Memorable, and of course Full to the brim of substance. Some music takes an ear/time to enjoy fully, just like some wines.
You do the above so that you can distinguish “red fruit” into: Bing cherry, black cherry, dried cherries, cherry preserves, pie, cherry cola, baked cherries and so on and so on. All of these flavors exist in wines and since you may have already paid for the privilege of tasting/imbibing the nectar of the gods should you not enjoy it to the fullest extent possible? In fact, not doing so is a disservice to the artistry and effort the winemaker put in to capturing sunlight, terroir, and the essence of fruit in each bottle.
It, working out with wine, can be done slowly, over time, but it can and should be done. It is a worthy endeavor, especially with the Bucket List tasting going on this Saturday.
So, crack some bottles, pop some corks, lift some glasses, visit the Farmer’s Markets before you come by, so that you can better enjoy these wines. Enjoy them to the fullest point possible. Turn that palate/taste up to 11. You know that the flavors are out there, waiting to be discovered and once you discover them… Damn. There is no going back. You would not want to anyway.