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Enjoying your wine

It might sound a bit daft to say it, but the first purpose of wine is that it should be fun. Yes, itís interesting, it has a measure of intellectual appeal, and it becomes more interesting as you learn more about it, but as an alcoholic beverage it is supposed to be a drink of relaxation, enjoyment and good old-fashioned fun.

This is why I did a bit of a double-take, recently. Iíd got to the stage where drinking wine had lost some of its fun. Instead, I was opening bottles to write tasting notes, or just because getting the corkscrew out was part of the evening routine. There was none of the eager anticipation to see what was inside the bottle. And when I was drinking the stuff, it wasnít really flicking the right switches, even though many of the wines I was opening were of reasonably high calibre. Something had changed.

No, itís not a huge crisis, and hardly deserving of an article. On the other hand, I suspect this phenomenon is relatively common to anyone whoís been developing a professional involvement in what was once just a hobby. I remember back to 1993, when I was just beginning to develop a serious interest in wine. Every bottle was an adventure, even though my tasting notes written at the time now look almost laughably brief (e.g. ĎA smooth, rich redí). 

So whatís the answer to jaded palate syndrome? At first I thought it was to drink better. Thus I was opening £10 wines to get the same kick that £5 wines used to give me. The problem here is that it doesnít really work: you end up spending a lot more money, and itís an escalating process. Few of us can drink first growth claret every night.

The answer for me was a change of scene. Now and then we need a break from whatever we are involved in; a chance to take a step back and regain a sense of perspective. Often a change of position is good: shifting from the vantage point of a wannabe professional wine writer to that of the consumer. This is more or less compulsory for any writer who wants to stay at all relevant to their audience. If I want to write effectively for consumers then I have to think like a consumer. My solution to this mini-crisis was to take a short break. Stop taking notes. Stop raiding the cellar. And then when I resumed I started by drinking cheap supermarket wine in modest quantities. After a while of this sort of consumption pattern, then you are ready to begin going after the good stuff again. I've done this and, for now at least, I'm really enjoying wine again. It's a blast.

Letís use a motoring analogy. You might be a car buff with an expensive sports car. The problem is, if you are driving an expensive sports car every day, the privileged nature of this automotive experience might be wearing a little thin. Is the answer to lust after a bigger, faster, posher sports car? No, try this instead. Garage the sports car for a month and go and buy an old second hand motor with a small engine and bad ergonomics. Thereís a twofold benefit to be gained here. First, you will begin to appreciate the fine engineering of your sports car when you return to it. Second, you might even grow to enjoy the quirks and limitations of an old, simple car again. I remember driving round an old Mk 1 Astra Estate during my latter years as a student. It was an old heap, but a loveable heap. To make a parallel with wine here might be stretching the analogy a bit, but I hope you get the point.

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