When it comes to wine appreciation, certain mental aspects make a great impact on someone’s ability to better taste wine: memory, concentration and logic.
Generally, memory tends to get worse with age, which definitely effects wine appreciation. Many folks say they can taste a wine, but half an hour later, not remember what it was like. This problem becomes compounded when many wines have been tasted.
Good memory is a real plus in appreciating wine. Being able to remember and recognize certain sensory characteristics is crucial to judging it, but what good is building up a “wine library” of characteristic smells and tastes in the brain if you can’t recall them when desired? A good memory saves time, promotes better results and allows the taster to sample and compare more products.
Memory alone is not absolute though. Closely related is experience. It’s literally impossible to remember, let alone identify, a characteristic that you have not previously experienced.
Certain exercises can increase your memory and aid in your wine appreciation. You’ve got to try shaking your brain cells up a bit. I’m not talking about going on some crazy ride at Canada’s Wonderland that will rearrange your molecules, but something a little more sedate that will stimulate the brain.
For example, if you’re right-handed, try brushing your teeth with your left hand. Instead of smelling coffee first thing in the morning, take a whiff of something else like oregano or vanilla extract. These variations from the norm help fire your brain’s neurons, strengthening memory.
Another great way to increase your memory when it comes to wine is to make tasting notes. Many students will tell you they remember far more by writing stuff down when studying for exams than simply reading about it. When it comes to wine, if you only taste several a year, you’ll probably have no problem remembering them. However, when that number rises substantially, it becomes next to impossible. The great ones and the severely poor ones might stand out in your mind, but everything else becomes a homogenous blur. By making notes, you also have documentation that acts as a great reference tool.
Concentration is another key when it comes to wine appreciation. Good power of concentration is a real benefit for a wine taster. Without it, it is very difficult to focus on and isolate specific smells, senses and tastes, increasing your sensitivity to them.
Introducing past bad or good experiences and potential future ones into the tasting environment certainly gets in the way as well. One of the biggest deterrents to concentration with respect to wine is distractions such as extraneous noises and smells. Eliminating them is the key here. When at a big event where there are lots of people, you might try finding a quiet tasting space somewhere off to the side to do your thing. Ensure it’s away from food so the smells don’t interfere (hard to do at wine fairs). As much as etiquette dictates that potential tasters don’t wear any fragrance like perfume or aftershave to events, there are still those that do, and unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid. Simply move away from them as best you can.
It is possible to train yourself to concentrate better on wine through mental exercises. Some people claim simple yoga mind clearing exercises help.
Logic in wine tasting is important as well. It’s the ability to reason in a rational organized order, allowing ideas and things to fall into place naturally and sensibly, providing easier understanding. This can easily enhance or detract from wine appreciation.
For best results, be sure you follow the correct procedure when tasting. Always visually examine a wine first, then move on to the nose, and finally the palate. By following this logical approach, data about a wine will fall correctly into place.
Increasing your memory, power of concentration and utilizing logic will definitely make you a better wine taster.
Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator and judge
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