Crossover Episode: Mindful wine tasting

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A crossover episode: where the day job and night job collide! At a recent meeting of our patient support group, a psychologist gave a presentation on mindfulness and symptom management. The goal of practicing mindfulness is to become intensely aware of the present experience without self-judgment and with acceptance and intention…and to develop more awareness of our psychological responses to situations.

The psychologist led attendees through an exercise with a raisin, with the aim of teaching distraction as a mindfulness technique. As I sat there studying the raisin, feeling its weight in my hand, examining its texture, and then doing the same with its flavor, it occurred to me: This seems a lot like wine tasting!

First, look at the glass of wine, ideally against a white tablecloth or sheet of paper. What color is it? Can you see through it? Is there sediment or (egad) cork? Is it a young wine or an aged wine? Light or dense? Is there a sharp rim or a watery rim? Give the wine a swirl to release the aroma and look for evidence of “legs” along the side of the glass.

Second, smell the wine. Smell, don’t sniff. Inhale the fragrance across the whole mouth of the glass. Does it change? Stick your nose in the glass. What do you smell? Well, aside from wine? Cherries? Grass? Peat? Slate? Flowers? Smoke? Lime? Pepper? Damp earth? Vanilla? Spice? Bread? Leather? Chocolate? Barnyard? Coffee? Tobacco? Marshmallow? Something really out there? As if barnyard isn’t really out there…

If it smells like a wet newspaper, old attic, or not much at all, the wine could be corked. Open another bottle!

Third, taste the wine. Take a good-sized sip and hold it in your mouth for 3-5 seconds. Let it warm up. Roll it around your mouth so it touches all parts of your tongue. Suck in bit of air while you do it. Yup, you’re a wine geek now. What do you taste? Sweet/fruit? Sour/acid? Bitter/astringent/tannin? Salt? (Hopefully not). Umami? Is it light- or full-bodied?

Fourth, pay attention to the finish in 15-second intervals. What is happening right away? Residual sugar? Fruit? Acid? Tannin? What about after 15 seconds? Thirty? Forty-five? Sixty? For how long can you taste it? What does it taste like now?

Ideally the wine will be a balance of fruit, acid, and tannin (dries out your month). Wine that tastes too strongly of alcohol is considered “hot,” while wine that lacks acid is described as “flabby.” Wine that is too astringent or tannic is just not fun to drink, but a tannic wine may age well and soften nicely over time.

So there you go: wine tasting as mindful distraction from stress and other budens. Not a bad practice to cultivate.

Until our next adventure in wine and food…

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