Spending time in Napa Valley got me thinking about wine…

Wine tasting here is a ritual that can be intimidating. The self-righteous sommelier stated that filling out the wine order form was a “test of intelligence”.

I know little about the intricacies of wine. I know which tastes good and which is going to give me a headache. I own a few wine gadgets: an electric corkscrew in honor of my carpal tunnel, an aerator to help it breathe and a vacuum bottle stopper for leftovers. I’m ok with where I am right now in the wine department.

I choose wine from areas I have been to. Wine with a story. I am drawn to Montepulciano from Tuscany, Barolo from Piedmont, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Shiraz from Australia. I recall sitting in a pub in New Zealand – it was trivia night (the horrors!) and I was invited to join a team. The only answer I knew was a question about Brett Favre ;-).

Drinking wine has a cerebral and a sensory component. Cerebral is the easy part for me. It is knowing the demographic origin of the grape, the soil composition, the wine-making process. The other is the primal sense of taste. That sense, as with all our senses, is underdeveloped. While we are aware of the 5 elements of taste (sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami), they don’t get adequate attention. Wine is different in it’s depth, quality and mystique than, let’s say a Coca-cola. Drinking wine with a bit of reverence is a good thing.

That said, often in life the less you know the more you can enjoy. An avid surfer knows so much about surfing that he can no longer go to any beach and catch a wave. He needs to check the surf report for the perfect conditions. Perfect is the enemy of good. I know musicians that can’t just lean back and tap their feet – they need to deconstruct and respond to their analysis of the song rather than the song itself. It’s like a joke…if you dissect it, it dies.

When it comes to wine if you get too intellectual about it, it is no longer fun. But if you down it like a Coke, you miss out.

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