In Pursuit of Winefulness

August 6, 2015

Wine overlooking the beach


Welcome to my little corner of the wine world. Why don’t you come out to the balcony and join me?

wine with reflection and book
jonathanhoeglund / Foter / CC BY

In Pursuit of Winefulness started as a bit of “next steps” for me. I recently completed my Diploma courses from the WSET, and since I have a full-time life outside of wine world (check out the About Me page), I was looking for something to help channel my wine passion. I have been interested in learning about wine (the regions, varietals, vintages and people involved) ever since I started drinking wine. While I was reading or studying or taking whatever course I happened to be in, I had a reason to focus my attention on all the intricacies of wine. But with the Masters of Wine a bit further on the horizon (with its pesky requirement that you need to work in the wine business for 3 years), I sat down to think of ways I could keep the same level of focus without a test or deadline hanging over my head. And thus, this blog was created.

The world of wine is vast and you could spend years and years studying it and still not really know wine. Or at least even come close to knowing wine, because wine is ever-changing. It is easy to enjoy wine with only a minor effort, and many people stop there. But for me, there is more to learn. For me, wine is interactive, and the more you know about wine the more interactive it becomes. A glass of wine can become more than a refreshing thirst-quencher or a regular purchase at the supermarket or local liquor store. Wine can provide a glimpse into other worlds, allowing us to wonder: Where did it came from? Who made it? How did the flavor of cherries combine with spice and flowers? Why do I keep remembering that bottle I drank two weeks ago?

All of these questions, and many many more, can flow out of a glass of wine. And the more you look to answer those questions, the more questions come forth. But rather than become disheartened thinking there is never an end-point, there can be enjoyment in seeking those answers and finding new questions. That is how wine is for me.

red water drop
seyed mostafa zamani / Foter / CC BY

But with all of these questions, it can be easy to lose focus and not truly engage in finding the answers. You may think you are engaged, but knowledge remains at the surface. That is why wine calls for you to be mindful. Mindfulness to me is being present in the moment, focusing on the moment and all that it brings. Being fully and truly aware of what you are doing right now. Allowing whatever you are doing to have your full attention. Wine can act as a gateway to this state of mindfulness. Call it a state of winefulness. It is contemplative. Sometimes it is hidden and sometimes it is mysterious. Many times you only come to understand a wine when you spend some time with it. Allow it to pour into all of your senses until it becomes a part of you.

Attaining a greater level of knowledge helps you to be more mindful. The more you know about a wine, the more you can focus on the deeper questions it is asking. Not just what grape the wine was made from, but how the soil effected the growing of that grape. And the weather for that particular vintage. And how that and so much more translates into what is in the glass. The more you know about wine, the more you bring to it. And the more you bring to wine, the more wine can give back to you. For me, the more wine can give to me, the happier I am. I imagine I’m not alone in that feeling.

Being present in the moment can be about more than focusing entirely on what is in the glass in front of you. Wine can play so many roles in your life, from companion on a cold winter’s night to celebratory accompaniment on your wedding day. Many times wine is more than something to analyze. Being mindful of the moment allows wine to permeate your life and bring a greater sense of joy and fulfillment. Being mindful allows you to recognize that sometimes no analysis is needed or even warranted. But only when you are in the moment, and focused on the moment, can you begin to understand the difference. Only when you approach wine as something that should garner your utmost attention will you begin to recognize the times, and wines, that call for looking at something greater than just the wine itself. But all of that can be lost if you mindlessly knock back the bottle you just opened.

I enjoy finding knowledge in a glass of wine and allowing wine to ask questions of me. But I know that I can fall prey to a wavering focus. Many times I will walk into my local wine store, buy a random bottle and open it without much thought. I think I am actively involved, even dutifully writing down a tasting note, but ask me about that same wine a week later and I may not even remember opening it. It was easy to not let this happen when I was studying for one of the many wine tests I have taken. I had a clear reason to be mindful. But I finally was able to recognize the times I wasn’t being mindful, and how my enjoyment of wine suffered. Writing here, then, will allow me to share not only this insight, but how it plays out in real life.

Plan Your Attack -->So what will you find here. How will I use mindfulness to approach wine? I plan to attack one subject in the wine world and focus on nothing else until I feel I have a true and deep understanding of that subject. So if the subject is Barolo, I will seek out many different examples across the entire spectrum of Barolo and taste them. I will taste across different producers, and as possible, across different vintages for chosen producers. I will taste across different bottlings from a given producer, from baseline Barolo’s to single vineyard expressions. I will build up as much experience as I can with the wines. And I will seek out as much information as I can find about the wines I taste. Information on the producers and their methods. How the methods compare or contrast to other producers in Barolo. Where the grapes come from and how the different vineyard sites lead to differing results. What is the historical context from which the producer came from. I will follow this process, for Barolo only, until all the information and experience leads me to a place where I can firmly believe I have a proper understanding of Barolo. For some subjects that can be a matter of weeks. For others, months. And even then I will only know a fraction of what there is to know. But once I am satisfied with what I know for one subject, I will move on to another. And I will begin the process again in a new area.

But don’t worry. At the end of the day wine is something pleasurable and not meant to always have such a rigid approach applied to it. There will be times when other wines or subjects pop in and out while my focus is elsewhere. I wouldn’t be present in the moment if I shut out these wines when they came to me. I will enjoy these other opportunities, and be mindful while enjoying them, but I will then return to my current topic. Life is fluid, and there is an inherent fluidity in being mindful. But at the end of the day, there remains a forward momentum which will carry me through each subject I tackle.

So there you have it. My goal then is to apply my mindful approach to my life with wine, all the while using this blog to record my progress. What follows will be my experience in pursuit of winefulness, and I hope you enjoy the journey.

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