I’ve written before about how winemaking is the convergence between art and science, equal parts cooking and chemistry. Our taste bud’s receptor cells bond momentarily with the specific and identifiable chemical structure of the liquid, but in that instant the sensation of those neurons firing in our brain is translated into our conscious perception of the taste of the wine something transcendent occurs. That perception is inherently subjective and it is then, when the science is elevated to the status of art. In that moment, too, the nuances of the wine drinking experience become blended, like Red Rex, with neurons triggered by all manner of other sensory input from our surroundings: Our perception of wine is intrinsically related to circumstances in which it is enjoyed.
A wine enthusiast knows that their palate is easily influenced by wines enjoyed earlier in the night that are still lingering on the tongue. It helps tremendously to chew on a piece of bread to clear your palate. If you’ve ever seen a jar of coffee beans in a tasting room and wondered what the story was, it’s a similar idea. You just sniff the beans to clear out the sinuses. It actually works amazingly well! In the same way that food usually tastes a bit strange right after you brush your teeth, that garlicky Caesar salad has the same effect of the subtleties of wine, though you may not necessarily realize it.
Yet beyond muddling different foods and wines that may cloud our palate’s perception, which is perhaps a more conspicuous effect, there also is the ambiguous influence of present moment: What mood you are in when you taste the wine; the setting in which it is enjoyed; the company that you share the experience with. Subconsciously, all of these factors impact the verdict. It’s true that wine changes dramatically over time, and that individual bottles of wine can vary. Next time you have an experience where you tried a wine once and didn’t like it, yet on another occasion reversed your stance, consider that perhaps it wasn’t the wine that changed, but it was you.
When we created our tasting room in Deerfield’s cave we understood that the atmosphere of the room itself is intrinsically related to the wine drinking experience. Instead of a long wine bar where you stand shoulder to shoulder with other guests, we created an open and inviting space with deep couches and comfy chairs, arranged in a way that you can enjoy the company of your friends. The people you share your experience with are equally important, and that’s why we have a staff that is friendly and knowledgeable, because while wine is a truly fascinating topic of conversation, it’s mainly about having fun!