So, following on from the previous posts, what did I learn from the grand seminar?
Josh Raynolds revealed a curious fact. Back in the 1920s and earlier, people used to kiss with their eyes open. Since the age of movies, apparently, this has changed: people began emulate screen stars, who were hamming it up (in their ecstasy they closed their eyes when they kissed) and so now everyone kisses with closed eyes. This fact has ruined kissing for me, and now I will be in doubt every time: should I open my eyes or close them?
It’s a bit like this with tasting notes, now I have taken part in this seminar. I am in self-doubt about the adequacy of my notes on wine. Do they accurately reflect my perception? Do they communicate effectively to others? If, say, I gave you six glasses of red wine and my tasting notes on each, could you pair them successfully?
I think I am going to begin to try to emphasize more global properties of wine, using figurative language. The wine is a whole, and I want to capture that. Of my colleagues, I think Victoria Moore already does this well. I’m going to shy away from the shopping-list of ingredients/reductionist descriptions that can so often fail to capture wine meaningfully. I want to be more creative. I want to be less lazy: I worry that when I’m faced with a Sauvignon or a Pinot, for example, I just pluck out a subset of the limited number of words I have for each of these varieties, rather than interrogate the glass more accurately.
This self-doubt initially made me feel a bit down about writing tasting notes at all. But then a description by Frank Stitt of the wine he’d brought to share really opened up the wine for me. As he described it, I began interrogating my glass, and began to see some of the elements he was describing that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked out. ‘Wine needs words,’ said Hugh Johnson, memorably. And Hugh is right. Words open up and enrich the experience of wine. Language changes perception, and one of the best things a novice drinker can do is to develop a vocabulary for wine.
Elaine Brown’s drawings have also made me consider non-verbal ways of sharing perceptions and capturing the essence of a wine. I’m not sure I can draw wines, but maybe I should try? Words can get in the way. This raises the question of synaesthetic descriptions of wine, but that is a story for another day.