Wine and Mindfulness
Wine and mindfulness – they go together like champagne and camembert! We’ve talked before about how being mindful is an essential element of our happiness plan. Mindful wine appreciation is a great exercise for us since wine is such a complex beverage. Full appreciation of a glass of wine demands that you be in the moment. (If you like this wine and mindfulness exercise, I have a shopping list of wine tasting paraphernalia below you may want to check out.)
“When I put my nose in a glass, it’s like tunnel vision. I move into another world, where every bit of mental energy is focused on that wine.” – Robert M. Parker, Jr.
At a wine tasting you typically start with wine in a glass. That’s not how we roll!
The Bottle Says…
First, take a look at the bottle you have chosen. The standard sized wine bottle is a little less than a fifth of a gallon – the perfect size for two people to share. Winemakers named many of the larger sized bottles after kings of Israel. Get your Nebuchadnezzar on! Now, feel the weight of the bottle, look at its color and shape.
White and rosé wines are commonly bottled in clear glass to show off their color. White wine is not really white, you know. Dark green bottles generally hold red Bordeaux wines. Lighter green bottles often contain wines from Burgundy and the Rhône Valley.
Notice the shoulders of the bottle and the slope of the sides. A French Bordeaux will usually have straight sides, high shoulders and a pronounced punt – that’s the dimple in the bottom of the bottle. Wines from Burgundy and the Rhône Valley are most often tall bottles with sloping shoulders with a smaller punt.
So, you see you can learn a lot about wine and mindfulness before you taste a drop.
Look at the label to see where the wine was produced. Now, close your eyes and try to visualize the vineyard that produced the wine. What’s the terrain like? How is the weather there? Are there many people working the land? How is it harvested? Are barefoot people stomping the grapes to extract the juice? Is the juice placed in stainless steel or is it poured into French oak casks? There are so many questions you can ask about what it takes to get the grape from the vine to the bottle to your store.
The Traditional 7 Steps Of Wine Tasting
Now that we have considered our bottles and visualized the wine’s location, it’s time to move toward the traditional steps of wine tasting.
We’re looking for color and clarity in this step. A plain white background, such as a tablecloth, makes it a little easier to determine the wine’s color. So, look down into the glass and then take a look at it from the sides as well. White wines can be the color of a field of wheat, or the morning sun on the horizon. Some even have a silvery aspect to them. Red wines can be jewel tones like garnet and ruby to royal purple and older wines often turn brick red. Experts can ascertain a wine’s age and varietal by its color. Here’s a wine color chart that gives you additional information about what various colors mean. Next, we look for clarity. No one wants a muddied, hazy wine. Haze may indicate a faulty bottle. Older wines may need to settle for a couple of hours and be decanted because they often contain sediment.
Hold the glass by the stem and move it in a tiny, steady circle to swirl the wine. This aerates the wine and releases its various aromas. Now, look a the wine as it flows down the sides of the glass. The droplets that fall back toward the glass are called legs or tears. Although not true 100% of the time, more pronounced legs may indicate a fuller bodied wine with a higher alcohol content.
Here’s where wine and mindfulness really come together. Now that you have swirled the wine to liberate its bouquet, place your nose deeply in the glass. Close your eyes. Inhale. What do you smell? Wine appreciation primarily depends upon our sense of smell. Grape varietals often have distinctive aromas that may aid you in determining whether you are sniffing a Merlot or a Cabernet Franc. You might get raspberry and cherry fruit notes, as well as licorice, graphite, tobacco and bell pepper when sniffing a Cabernet Franc. A Merlot may smell of plums, black cherries and even chocolate. There are about 600 identifiable aromas in wine. If you have never smelled graphite, you won’t be able to identify it in wine. So, get an aroma wheel or aroma kit and start sniffing for better appreciation of wine aromas.
Remember as a kid when your parents made you stop slurping your drinks? With wine, feel free to slurp! Pull a small sip of wine into your mouth and then suck air into your mouth, spreading the wine over your tongue. Keep your head slightly tilted down so that you don’t pull wine down into your throat and start choking. As the wine warms in your mouth, more flavors are released. Pay attention to what you are tasting. Repeat the process a couple of times to see if you detect additional flavors. What does the wine feel like in your mouth? Is it smooth, silky, velvety, chewy, aggressive or rough?
Now, close your eyes and swallow. Don’t just focus on what’s happening in your mouth. Sure, consider the flavors and aromas, but also how the wine makes you feel. Some wines may spread warmth throughout your body.
Here’s where we really pause to let the wine speak to us. How does the wine finish? Is it short and abrupt or does the flavor linger? We’re thinking about the balance of the wine now. Is it overly acidic, causing you to pucker? Does the fruit or the sweetness overpower everything? Or, are all elements in harmony?
“Wine,” said Ernest Hemingway, “is the most civilized thing in the world.” So, be civil and share your bottle with someone. Discuss the wine’s merits and flavors. You can agree to disagree about what you are experiencing because everyone’s palate is unique. Once you’ve exhausted your discussion of the wine you can move on. Because over wine, you can relax and share all sorts of ideas freely – even wine and mindfulness. Cheers!