A bottle never goes empty… it fills with sensations!

“A person cultured and educated in the senses can obtain endless pleasure from wine”.
Ernest Hemingway

  • Learning about wines enables you to explain which wines you prefer. Identifying the sensations they create provides you with your own independent criteria: you are the only person who can say which wine is right for you and which is not!
  • There is nothing unusual about being a wine expert, but the more you know about wine, the more you can enjoy each glass to its fullest.
  • Let your intuition guide you along and add to your experiences through what you have felt.
  • Nobody is born with this knowledge, so start tasting wines and don’t be afraid of them. Wine should be a form of pleasure, not stress (and don’t be afraid to sniff at your glass in a restaurant!).
  • You can’t learn everything about wine in seven days, but you will be able to boast a bit of knowledge and enjoy each sip more after reading this book.

Why learn about wines?
Food and drink form part of our culture. Knowing how to choose a wine properly at a business lunch, knowing how to combine it with food to become the best host, seeking out the best wine to give as a gift, being able to classify the wines at a winery… These are just a few of the many reasons why you should take a chance on wine. The more information you possess, the more you will be able to enjoy wine. It is like a painting: if somebody explains the painter’s pictorial technique, you learn about the painter’s life and you are knowledgeable about the painting’s theme, your appreciation of it will grows fuller and more satisfying. The same is true with wine. If you understand what type of wine you are drinking, how it is made and its tasting notes, the smell and taste of the wine will be more appealing to your mind.

This book’s objectives: learning to identify sensations and acquire psychological independence
People often tell friends that they liked a certain wine but are unable to explain exactly why. They just tend to say, “Try it, it’s really good,” but are unable to put what “a good wine” means to them in words. They also experience difficulties when attempting to express what type of wine they want to the friendly shopkeepers at their wine shop. Many people say they “don’t want it to be too strong,” or “I don’t like it sweet.” But the truth is that the shopkeeper or sommelier does not really understand what you mean! In the language of wine culture, “too strong” could mean that it contains acetic acid (in other words the wine has “gone bad” or turned to vinegar). Or perhaps what people mean by this expression is that they hope to avoid astringent wines with a lot of tannins. “I don’t want it too sweet,” declare certain consumers when ordering white wine. With most white wines, the sugar in the grape juice, or must, has been converted into alcohol. That is why, more than sweetness in taste, it has sweetness in smell (and in the retronasal notes in the mouth as we shall see further below). A floral wine or one with syrupy notes may be interpreted as sweet by some, even though it contains no residual sugar. Knowing how to express what you know is the first step in being able to assign a name to the sensations you enjoy when you find a wine. Sometimes you can read a long tasting note on a wine label, but then you are unable to find that description reflected in your wine glass. Tasting notes are often designed by marketing experts, and there is no reason why your taste has to match the opinion of specialist critics. Nobody can tell you what you experience. Only you know this (though speaking about it properly is another matter!), which is why all people’s opinions are valid. However, translating these sensations into words so other people can understand you is a whole different topic…

EXERCISE
Explain why you like your favorite wine as if you were a sommelier. Are you able to explain to the other person all of its aromas and how it felt in your mouth? And most importantly: are you able to make that person feel what excited you about the wine? This is my captatio benevolentiae for demonstrating that being a sommelier is not so easy. Thinking about what something smells like and explaining it to others is complex, though it becomes easier with practice.

  • Must: The juice of the grape after pressing, with all the fruit’s sweetness and no alcohol.
  • Retronasal: There’s nothing retro about it. This is just the name given in wine tasting to the aroma in the mouth, or in other words, to the sensations which travel from the mouth to our sense of smell.
  • Sommelier: For now, let’s just say this is someone with a great knowledge of wine and either a degree or years of experience in the industry.
  • Tannins: The tannins in wine may come from the grape’s skin (especially in reds), the stem and the barrel. These tannins cause the final bitterness and create the sensation that the wine can almost be “chewed.” We will take a closer look at them later. In this book, there will be plenty of tannins to talk about…

* ‘Presume de vinos’ (SALSA) by Meritxell Falgueras Febrer.

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