Wine without context…. Is just not the same
By: George Balling
We had a first-time customer in the shop this past week, and like always we started our conversation with asking them what they enjoyed drinking. No point in recommending wines that are completely outside their wine sphere and it also gives us a read on what their palate picks up and responds to. After all everyone’s palate is different. The truly interesting part of this interaction was the new customer’s response. She replied, “Well it depends on my mood, and the weather, and what I might be eating, and who I’m with.” Precisely, we couldn’t agree more! Wine is simply put a contextual drink, all of the factors this customer sited and more affect not only what we might choose to drink, but also our perception of it.
Later that evening we had dinner with some very dear friends of ours. The couple that joined us for dinner is in “the business” so to speak having owned restaurants and still working somewhat in the food and beverage industry. Since they left their most recent business, they have weekends off so near the end of the Friday evening together we were joking about Mary and I having to work on Saturday and me having to come up with a column to write. Our friend had a great suggestion given that we had just enjoyed two wonderful bottles of wine with them, he said “Write about our wine experience tonight and how much better the wine seemed enjoying it with good friends.” Again, precisely, we couldn’t agree more!
That night we had started with the dry Côtes du Rhone Rosé from Brotte and with our meal we had a bottle of the super Tuscan Mongrana from one of our favorite wineries Querciabella. Both wines we know very well from having had them a number of times, in the case of the Querciabella it is the only wine we have kept on our shelf for the entire 15 years our shop has been open, yes, its that good. But, in reference to that night last week what made those wines so delicious, perhaps even better than we recalled?
We were at an Italian restaurant and in the case of the first wine from Brotte, it is French so not an obvious choice given where we were dining, but we know that our guests love French wine. In the case of the Querciabella while our friends love French wine, the husband is of half Italian heritage so he definitely appreciates Italian wine as well.
It was a lovely evening catching up on family news for all of us. Talking about pets and projects on our homes, business and all the things close friends discuss. As we went through the evening though the wine seemed to continually get better. Sure, part of that is that we were drinking wine, but more of it was the connection between good friends at a fun restaurant, on an evening when at least half of us didn’t have to work the next day. So, the question goes, what made those wine so delicious, perhaps even better than we recalled? There really is only one explanation, the context!
For all wine consumers we encourage you to pay attention to that context of your wine. Some of the best ways to enhance your own and others enjoyment of any bottle of wine you choose to share are to pay attention to some key things.
If you are choosing the wine it helps to know what your guests enjoy the most. Focus on wines from areas you have travelled to, together, or wines that come from an area you know your friends are very fond of. Weather is a big contextual part of wine, a cold rainy day will usually lead us to a rich full-bodied wine, while a warm summer afternoon points us toward something a big lighter.
Perhaps most importantly for all of us as wine consumers though is to enjoy the moments of lingering over glasses of wine with those, we are closest too. On that certain special night with old dear friends and loved ones pay attention to how much better the wine tastes, and how new favorites may emerge for each of us just because of context. When it happens, it is pretty swell.