According to Iain Gately’s book, Drink, for much of its history, wine was the drink of kings.
From the the ancient Greeks, who thought of imbibing wine as a distinguishing characteristic between themselves and other, barbaric races, to medieval English nobility who practically drowned in the stuff, they were drunk all the time, important royal people drank the stuff.
Now, it’s a daily drink for many people of both common and noble birth, but that legacy remains. Understandable, then, why some people become total douchebags when it comes to wine. They feel the need for putting on airs.
Oh, hints of Edam? You can’t be serious.
Sensations of ripe forest berry, rhubarb and dark cherry, with a waft of cigar? Must be compensating for something.
Vibrant sensations of eucalyptus and mint waft over the palate, coupled with black olive, cassis and nutmeg? You have a small penis.
At the same time you’re thinking, I can’t taste these things, what’s wrong with me? Stupid wine, I hate you! Then you’re turned off wine and never quite comfortable drinking it.
That’s unfortunate. You end up missing out on, well, another way to get drunk. But a subtle, hey, wait a minute, I should sit back down because I’m drunker than I think drunk. Sharing a bottle of wine with someone is ripe for great moments. It’s a pleasure one shouldn’t deny oneself.
So, how do you come to enjoy wine? I have just the thing.
Enjoying wine is all about the first and second sip. Focus on only that. Drown out all other stimuli. Get your whole body and mind consciously concentrated on that first sip. Ready?
OK, wait just a second. We should talk about the vessel from which you take that first sip. Don’t drink wine from the bottle. That’s unseemly. Wine also tastes better in a glass. So, just this once, take a swig from the bottle. Then pour some in a glass and try that. Big difference, right? (The same trick works for all drinks—to really blow your mind, try the same with a can of Coke.)1 The difference in the taste is exposure to oxygen. Oxygenation of wine is a double-edged sword; right out of the bottle, it can be a good thing, depending on the wine. But wait a few hours, and yuck, the wine tastes awful. As soon as the wine is opened microbes in the wine slowly start the process of turning it into vinegar.
So, right out of the bottle, to add more oxygen, which benefits reds more than whites, give the wine a little swirl. Swirl reds just a bit more. At the same time, inspect the colour. The wine should be clear, not cloudy.
I know, I know, you want to sip the wine. Just wait, one more thing. Our senses of taste and smell are heavily intertwined. To enhance that first sip, you should, after swirling, give the wine a smell. A wine glass has a wide bowl and a narrow opening for a reason: to trap the aromatic compounds that give the wine its flavour. Get your nose right in the glass. Close your eyes, so you can concentrate on the smells.
Finally, you’re ready to sip. Keep the wine in your mouth for a moment before swallowing. Pay attention a little while after you swallow to detect the aftertaste. Now think about what you tasted.
First, there are no wrong answers to what you taste. I honestly can’t taste much passed "fruity", "smokey", "good"; occasionally, I can pick up the flavours suggested, but I don’t sweat it if I can’t.
Now enjoy the rest of the glass and the bottle. There’s no need to take it so slow with the rest. Your senses are already saturated with it.
And that’s it! Easy, right?
There are tons of varieties of wine, and many variables, so the same wine from the same vineyard but different years taste different. It’s a relatively cheap drinking hobby, because price doesn’t reflect quality. Try all kinds, find which ones you like.
So drink up, and if you taste lychee fruit or a waft of cranberry bog, just keep it to yourself. Pass along the ritual above, get everyone involved, the more the merrier, start a conversation.
- A note to the ladies: Only boorish fools drink right from the bottle or can. Sophisticated gentlemen prefer glasses. [↩]