More on Tasting Notes: An Act of Pleasure
Yesterday I was sitting in the kitchen of Emmanuel Houillon tasting barrel samples of 2009 poulsard. I was going through the same actions I had repeated perhaps twelve hundred times in the past month. Swirl, smell, swirl again, taste, spit, swirl, taste, spit, all the while trying to tease out something in the wine that I may be missing. That I like the wine is immediately evident, but I still go through the familiar motions, trying to “understand” the wine. I catch myself overthinking the wine during the act of tasting it and some of the initial pleasure becomes lost.
Later that day, at lunch with Manu his wife Anne (who is a genius cook) and vigneron Phillipe Bornard, wine is again present but the ritual is different. People have glasses, and they drink. The wine is fucking good, as is the food. More wine is poured and the lunch goes several hours. I don’t think about the wine as much, but it is more memorable. The pleasure of the wine and the food comes to the forefront, the critic goes to sleep.
Anyone who knows the initial experience of finding a wine that sticks with them knows the feeling of looking down into the glass in amazement that something could taste so good. The pleasure of the moment is impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced it.
A few weeks ago I completely abandoned my tasting notebook, which was being used for the most basic notes I could write. Even with this basic format I found myself trying to justify why such and such wine was pleasurable or why such and such wine was terrible. The question was always…”did I really like this wine?” I needed to make sure before I wrote it down, but I was second guessing my gut reaction or trying to make it something it wasn’t, so the notebook went.
The underlying problem remains, however. I’m still trying to over-intellectualize my reactions, trying to dissect the wine I’m tasting.
When I’m drinking, however, this doesn’t happen. Tasting is important (especially because I’d be dead if I was actually drinking all these wines) but it really doesn’t have anything to do with how wine is enjoyed. When I drank the Overnoy-Houillon the impression I left with was distinctly different from when I tasted it.
I’m still trying to figure out the language I can use to communicate the pleasure I get from a specific wine when I drink it. Perhaps it doesn’t exist, or perhaps it isn’t necessary if I tell you the rest of the story behind a wine, but I’m more sure than ever that I’m done with the tasting note for good.