You know that feeling when you don’t know what you’re doing, so you just imitate the person sitting next to you. That was me, swirling my glass so vigorously the wine splashed out, then sniffing the wine so deeply I was punched in nose by fumes of alcohol. My wine tasting technique was simple, pour a generous amount and drink it: not giving a thought about the bouquet, the acidity, the way it felt in the mouth and so forth. I lacked real appreciation and respect for a decent wine. My theory of a good wine was: if it led to an intoxicated state, then that was a good wine.
In my early days of underage drinking, wine meant nothing. It was merely fermented grapes, which served the aim of getting me drunk. At the time my knowledge of wine was restricted to just that, it came from grapes, and somewhere there was a fermentation process that resulted in grape juice with an added kick. Drinking wine at the age of 16 made me feel like a minor, yet sophisticated, rebel. I couldn’t really understand why my parents and other grown-ups seemed to enjoy this “fermented grape juice” so much. It wasn’t until much later that I came to appreciate the great complexities and different varieties it offered.
Tasting wine became a regular activity eventually leading to a tasting group, made up of some classmates and myself, that would travel to different wine farms almost every week. Stellenbosch town is very small and once in a while you need to escape. The outings gave me a better understanding of the wine producing regions and allowed me to travel around. In the end, a sort of ritual was created every time wine was poured into my glass: firstly the gentle swirl to aerate the wine, followed by a subtle inhalation of some of the beautiful aromas, culminating in a mouthful of the luscious liquid whirling around in my mouth, an art I can only relate to a well choreographed dance. It is then the mind’s task to integrate all the information being relayed from the activated senses, which takes time and experience to learn. Which I now know as my first few wine tasting notes were complete gibberish and very amateur-like: I guess I was shy in expressing my snobbishness.
Wine for me today, at the age of 23, is like a piece of art. I liken this sensual liquid to that of an elegant, retired ballerina who puts the fat and sassy retired cheerleaders to shame. Whether the cheerleader in this metaphor is beer or another drink I leave up to you to decide, although, a good crafted beer has its own appeal. But I transgress, back to the subject at hand, I swore not to become one of those wine snobs and to not embarrass people in their poor choices of what they call “good wine”, but occasionally I cannot resist being snobbish and lashing out with a well-aimed retort. My point is that, people evolve over time.