From its origins in Eurasia some 8,000 years ago, wine has spread to become a staple at dinner tables throughout the world. People devote lifetimes to its study, spend fortunes tracking down rare bottles, and give up respectable, lucrative careers to make wine. Yet we have forgotten how to drink it, if we ever knew. For in all the tasting notes, scores, marketing fashions, and sommelier exams that define our contemporary wine culture, we lose sight of wines’ deeper significance and mystery. The word “soul” has unsavory connotations so I won’t throw it around. But whatever it is that allows us to live with gratitude, conscience, humor, and eros—wine can speak to that part of us, the whole self, not that truncated part that is a palate or nose.
As wine lovers we know this implicitly but professional tasting practice typically doesn’t acknowledge it, opting instead for clinical descriptions of flavor notes and structure.
There is a place for those clinical descriptions but they don’t begin to capture the essence of wine and I wonder if professional wine tasting sometimes does wine a disservice by leaving out the emotional dimensions of wine.