Sunday, May 06, 2007

Finding Your Spot

Have you ever had a wine that just hit all the points on your palate? It touched the sweet, the salty, the bitter, the sour, the spicy, the astringent, all the points. It hit the spot. That’s better than a 95 point wine, for the experience you are having is your unique interaction with a product that has been made by another person who doesn’t necessarily know you or know your tastes. So when it happens, it is pretty special.

I know, I know, just give us tasting notes or tell us about Italy, enough of this rambling. Maybe you just want to be told what to like, where to go in Italy, what to eat and drink, what pictures to look at. And you will be disappointed with what I am about to lay out. It’s just a map, not to anywhere you can find that easily. But once you get there, once you find your spot, you’ll be as good as the experts.

So where do you start? Let’s take a wine, let’s say a Primitivo from Puglia. Cantele makes a good one, basic, moderately priced, readily available.

Opening the wine, let it roll into your glass and swirl a little bit, give it some time, no need to rush. Get to know the wine, look at the color, note that is has a pretty, bright ruby color, is clear and fresh. As you take it to breathe in, close your eyes. What does it remind you of in your past? Is there something from childhood, or yesterday? Is there a memory of something from a walk, an earthy memory? What kind of fruit does it recall? Is there any of the barrel or is it unoaked? What about the wine reminds you of something totally not about wine?
Does it have a variety of aromas, or does one stand out?

Take a sip; don’t spit it out this time. Take another slightly larger taste; let it roll around your mouth like it did in the glass. Let it roll all across your palate, let it break upon the shores of your tongue and your back palate, let it roll. What’s your first impression? Is it pleasant? What does it make your think about, how does it make you feel? Do you have any cheese nearby? Give it a taste, and go back to trying the wine. How does it change the wine? Are your starting to feel hunger? Does it make your mouth water?

After you swallow, walk away from the wine, go sit somewhere away, go back to your book or your work or your computer. Or your garden. Wait about 10-15 minutes and involve yourself in some activity. Let it sink in.

It’s like looking at it from another point of view; maybe the distance gives another perspective. That simple.

So what do you think? Did it hit your spot? If so, really nice. If not, try again. That’s really a simple exercise that anyone can do. It takes more time than expertise but if you are taking at a relatively slow pace, one can, over time become pretty adept at finding your spot.

You don’t have to load up a cellar with trophies, or buy the most expensive wine on the list. In fact the discipline of finding the wine that was put on the list for you (the expert) can be like a treasure hunt. So very much fun. And buying wine becomes more like going on a vacation, looking for something unique that resonates with your points. Today there are many places where you can taste wine before buying. You don’t have to worry about what the masters or the influential journalists think about it. By the way, they are also on a road to discovery every time they taste. They too are learning, if they are going about it with humility and a love of discovery.

It’s not all black and white, finding your spot. Sometimes you can go right to it, sometimes you stumble upon it and sometimes you walk right past it.

Whatever you do, don’t let anyone tell you what you are tasting and smelling, that which is unique to you. And don’t let them tell you what you are smelling or tasting is wrong, how can they know what your experience is anyway? Experience in life, not wine tasting. That is your unique experience and it colors your sensory experiences.

Finding your spot is something we all look for in wine tasting, and other experiences on the wine trail in Italy, and everywhere esle, in time and space.

As a matter of note, all the pictures were taken at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy. There were tourists milling around the spot where the infamous deed took place, in fact they were having their pictures taken on the very spot (or spots) where the bullets took their toll.

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