Wednesday, July 30, 2008
How to Taste Wine: Your Senses and Your Reality
Last week I tried to explain a bit about how Autism can affect the senses.
This week I want to teach You, using your own senses, how to appreciate someone else's perceptions.
To do this I am going to use wine. Mr Hammie and I used to work in the wine industry. I was a very good rep', I could talk the talk, I was a kick arse salesman and I knew how to communicate with the best in the industry. But Mr Hammie had the real gift of the palate. He could actually taste all the things that wine writers write about in their tasting notes. I used to read the notes and try to put it into my own words; Mr Hammie used to taste and describe them himself.
The picture above is a breakdown of how wine can taste. This is based on MY perception of what each flavour "looks like" and my ability to mix colors, but you get the picture.
On the right is how Mr Hammie tastes Chardonnay. To make it easy I am suggesting you go out and buy a nice bottle of Aussie Chardonnay. Off you go...............
Take a sip of the Aussie wine, and swoosh it around in your mouth a bit. Think about what it reminds you of. This is what Mr Hammie would say:
You might also be getting burnt or buttered toast if you got an oaked chardonnay and a hint of caramel. Lovely. Good choice.
Now, this is how I taste wine. To make the comparison easy I suggest you pick up a bottle of Mid-priced French wine from the same grape - Chardonnay, such as Chablis or Burgundy. Even a Macon will do. (off you go, we will wait here)
Then take a sip. What does it taste like?
That's right. WINE.
The combination of the region, the history, The soil or "Terroir" and the fact that the grapes in that area have been grown in the same way and made into wine in the same way for years and years; means that it is a far more homogeneous flavour that goes into the glass. Give it to Mr Hammie and he will pick up some red and green apple, bit of fresh buttery cream, maybe even a hint of freshly cut grass, some minerally characters.
But to me it fundamentally tastes like wine. Ahhhh.
I can taste an Aussie chard' and with prompts, pick up on the butterscotch, tinned peaches and maybe green apple on the finish.
But to me it just tastes like Work. That is why I prefer Burgundy.
In the mid-nineties, with the introduction of Australian wines into the European market, ordinary people got a chance understand what they liked about what they were tasting, because the wines were much simpler, and lets face it; cleaner and more approachable.
That, and the fact that the labels described exactly what was in the bottle led people to understand what they liked and why they liked it.
Instead of Terroir, Appellations, First Cru, Villages and Negociants. There was just the variety, the blend and the vineyard. All spelt out on a simple label.
Kind of like a Task Analysis where the steps to recognising what you liked and why you like it; in Simple Steps.
And then, when people had learned what they liked and why, they could expand on that interest. The thirst (he he) for knowledge could lead them back to the sophisticated old world wines that had bamboozled them with their sophistication and snobbery;
and start to appreciate their subtlety.
And that, ladies and gentlemens, is Sensory Integration.