A few days ago I went with the local British society to the Cooperativa Agricola de Garriguella, a nearby wine cooperative, to tour the premises and enjoy a wine tasting. I drink a glass of wine every day with my main meal (which changed from dinner to lunch when I moved to Spain) and have done so for years. And for years I’ve wanted to learn more about wine and more about how to really appreciate it, beyond just knowing that I like it or I don’t.
I’ve been to wineries before, both here and in California, so I have some idea of how wine is made. But in my wine tours, I never really learned the art of tasting. There is a lot to it because wine is a very complex beverage – in fact, it’s a living organism and as such, changes over time within the bottle. Its complexity has a lot to offer, if you know how to read it. I say read rather than taste, because in fact, tasting has more to it than just passing through the mouth. A major part of what you taste, if you taste properly, is conveyed through your sense of smell.
I remember one disappointing visit to a Napa Valley winery many years ago where when we tasted a white wine, the host described one of the flavors as lemon meringue pie. This turned me off to the art of tasting wine for a long time. How pretentious is that? But in fact, real appreciation of wine is not pretentious – it is based on knowledge and sensitivity and paying attention. Much like the appreciation of classical music or opera, the more you know, the more you can enjoy.
In this week’s tasting, lemon meringue pie was never mentioned. Then again, lemon meringue pie doesn’t exist here. And the fact is that if I’m ever going to get good at this, I’m going to have to work harder or concentrate more on my sense of smell, which did not do me proud at the cooperative.
What did work well was our hostess. Leonora was very knowledgeable and very clear in her discourse, and she does not have a pretentious bone in her body. At the end of our session, I spoke with her about the possibility of her leading a series of wine tastings which would include not only wines from the cooperative but also other wines from the region. This might work out and if so, I will be on my way to entry-level connoisseurship. I’m looking forward to it.