Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Get In Tune with Your Senses

Going to wine tastings can be lots of fun. This is commonly done at home with friends, in a wine class or a wine bar. The question is how do you truly take full advantage of the experience? My answer, you need to get in tune with your senses. In other words, fully understand what you see, smell, taste, and feel.

If you think about it, everything starts with your sensory memories. Growing up in the countryside, I was surrounded by farms, forests, mountains and home gardens. In fact, my best childhood memories include picking fruits and vegetables in my grandparent’s garden. When tasting wine, think back to your childhood as well as your present memories. Think of your sensory memories as a large MP3 device which constantly records and stores information. The only difference, these memories never get accidentally erased.

As a fun exercise in our monthly staff meetings, I sometimes conduct a lesson on fine tuning my staffs’ senses. I take the time to go to the local grocery store and select samples of different spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables. I lay the labeled samples on the table by category (ex. fresh fruit, dry fruit, fresh herbs, dry herbs, etc.) and ask them to come up one by one. With their eyes closed they go through each sample and try to transcribe their sensory experience. This exercise helps my staff in being fully prepared to describe and help select a suitable wine for each guest.

So the next time you experience a good bottle of wine, make sure to take full advantage of your sensory memories. Think about that bright ruby red color, the intense bouquet of summer blossoms, the taste of dark, ripe cherries and chocolate and that tangy, leathery feel of a nice Malbec.

Vincent Havard