But sometimes, on the good days, we encounter something—a person, place, or thing—that has deep and diverse potential, something with incomplete patterns in its nature which our actions can help complete. We sense in these special encounters the potential for further involvement, not as a plan, but as a felt richness which seems readily available for our engagement. These are the things we might fall in love with.
Wine offers this kind of engagement. Wine tastes good. But there is more to it than that. Once we have some knowledge and experience, we begin to sense the many dimensions of wine, many of them unpredictable and surprising. It is only fermented grape juice but it displays a seemingly infinite number of ways of being delicious, continuous variations which are explained by geographical and cultural differences as well as the imaginations of dedicated winemakers, and all in symbiotic relation to the foods we eat.
Immersion in the culture of wine enables us to sense this potential for difference and variation.
This is the real meaning of “quality.” Things of quality possess a set of dispositional properties or capacities that promise more than superficial engagement because we sense their potential for variety, intensity, and depth. And we want to engage with them because they draw a sharp contrast with static, familiar, completed patterns whose potential is spent.
In that moment when we first realize that wine can be fascinating, we sense a world opening up that seems to have no boundaries yet draws all of life together. In this respect, wine is no different from other things we love. Everything we encounter in experience offersan opportunity for a continuing transaction, whether through attraction or repulsion. The things we end up loving—our children, romantic partners, friends, activities, or objects such as wine, music, sports, books, etc.—have an initial grip on us because we sense they are redolent with possibilities. Sensation has a holistic, action-guiding quality; the restless energy of curiosity commandeers our sensory mechanisms employing them as probes seeking intensity, qualitative contrast, and potential patterns to be completed by further actions.
The value judgments we make about objects, activities, or persons begin as this affective “standing out” against a background of normalcy. The love of wine is not merely a passive, pleasurable response to a stimulus. It is shot through with expectations, judgments, and lures to act like any other object of love.