As much as social media wine wizards and millennials rail against established wine media, most of them (myself included) share with those ‘old media’ types a similar and mistake-prone approach to wine evaluation and appreciation.
And that is, the rapid-fire assessment, review, and perfunctory judgment of any given wine. We are judge, jury and executioner of the glass’ contents, often within the span of two minutes.
We see this happen all the time – in fact in some cases (like certain Twitter Taste Live events, or the “speed dating” wine blogging at the Wine Bloggers Conference), it’s encouraged and necessary. I often participate in and have grown to love those events, provided that we don’t take them too seriously.
And we shouldn’t take them seriously, at least as far as true wine appreciation is concerned. Why? Because every glass of wine, from the pedestrian to the sublime, is speaking to you, trying to tell you something about itself – you need only take the actual time to listen to it.
In the case of many wines made in the ‘Old World’ style (what my compadre Randall Grahm calls Modernist), where typicity of place and nuanced complexity are the goals, that message may be “Come back later.” New World (Postmodernist) wines usually (and probably unfairly) fare better in rapid-fire evaluation scenarios, precisely because they more often offer their treasures quickly and liberally – “Hey! Over here! I’m talkin’ to YOU!”
In a globally-connected, information-based economy like ours, we are progressively programmed with positive reinforcement to spend as little time as possible on something – in fact, we’re rewarded for doing many things at once, and the more quickly we can shove them into the same time slot, the better.
The trouble is, if you want to appreciate wine fully, you need to dump the Speed Racer + Multitasking Pro persona. Pronto…
The strange (and wonderful) fact is that you owe it to the wine in your glass to give it your full concentration, even if only for a minute or two. It will, I promise you, tell you something during that time – you need only have the patience to listen.
How is it that you come to owe a glass of wine anything? Well, you know how people often quip that “everything happens for a reason?” They’re right. Sort of. The Universe has, though a series of progressive events, lead you to this moment, with a glass of that new wine in your hands. The journey that the wine itself has taken to be in front of you is a kind of miracle, from bud to grape to fermentation vessel to bottle… and let’s not even get into the dust of the stars settling to Earth from the Big Bang to create the molecules that eventually came together to form your glass.
And no, I am not drunk right now – the entire history of the Universe is coming together in this moment between you and that glass, and the meaning of life in any given moment is that given moment. So how could you not owe the moment with that glass to at least some degree?
If that’s too much Zen Wine for you, then here’s another take:
I often hear from budding oenophiles that they “could never pick out those nuances in a glass of wine” and that is best left to some sort of trained professional, as if they were scared of extending a gas line as part of a DIY home project. It’s times like these when I need to suppress the urge to deliver a Chuck Norris-style roundhouse kick to the side of their faces (that would be rude, of course, since it would likely spill the wine in their glass).
That approach is total crap – if it was legit, it wouldn’t warrant the Chuck Norris face kick. Anyway, if you pay attention, that wine in your glass will tell you everything that you need to know about it. No license required.
Paying attention to that wine, with total focus, will do more for your wine appreciation skills than reading 5 years worth of any wine periodical.
So put the Chuck Norris smackdown on your wine multitasking!