For 3 years now I have been tearing wine apart; probing it, questioning it, analysing it, resenting it and loving it in equal parts. It was a slippery slope as my emotional response to wine was replaced by systematic analysis. What is the alcohol level, the acidity, the residual sugar? Can one detect the presence of malolactic fermentation/lees aging/oak aging? Is the oak new or old? Is it French, American or Slovenian? Is it 225 litre barrels or large botti? How long has the wine been in oak? Pedantic? Yes. Necessary? Sadly, also yes. Love was in danger of being sacrificed at the cold table of scientific analysis with the High Priest of the IMW looking down in judgement.
Despite the MW practical exams finishing at the beginning of June, I have still been tasting wine in a frenzied state of analysis – a vinous version of PTSD I fear. I have been so busy analysing the wine that I have been forgetting to ‘feel’ the wine, to let the flavours and textures wash over me, to allow my senses to run wild with the pure, holistic, sensory joy of good wine. Like someone with a nervous tick it was proving difficult to throw off.
However, last weekend, for the first time in a long while I was tasting with my heart and not with my head. The result was completely self indulgent and utterly marvelous! It was Emma – aka ‘Science Monkey’s’ – much anticipated wedding which meant for once, though I was in a wine region I was not manically taking notes and firing out questions to bemused winemakers but sitting back and indulging in non-vinous conversation (well, for the most part). I was enjoying being surrounded by great friends, bathed in sunshine and enjoying some of the world’s most dramatic wine-scapes of the Douro valley.
I was drinking good wine in the setting it was designed to be enjoyed… a chilled magnum of crisp Albarino by the pool in the blazing sun with Lenka, (evil monkey); a delicious supple Mencia in the evening playing a rather competitive game of rummy; a romantic bottle of Alvarhino over a lengthy tapas lunch in sun drenched Porto. And that is not even touching on the Pol Roger flowing like water into my glass on the big day (it always pays to make friends with the waiter early on!), and the grand vinous finale on the wedding day was Dow’s 1977 port, laid down at the groom’s christening many years before, and received with great pleasure by the eager guests.
Though scientific understanding of what is in the glass is exciting and invigorating, and analysing the wine rewarding and challenging it is equally important to remember to sit back, smile, forget about the science and just be enveloped by the sheer pleasure of the aromatic beauty that is in your glass.
Thank you Emma and Miguel, not only for a truly beautiful wedding, but for reminding me why I love wine so much.