Let’s get the definition out of the way, shall we? Hedonism (noun):
- delight in something
Yes, people take pleasure in wine. They enjoy it by way of sniffing and swirling and tasting. Delight is an effect of all of these characteristics.
Yet there are factors that play a contributing role in the dissatisfaction of wine play. The following six factors can make your wine experience less than fun-filled. Keep them in mind the next time you’re pulling that cork.
1. PHYSICAL HEALTH
Got a cold? Dehydrated? Eat a specific diet? Taking prescription medications? Are you a smoker? All of these factors can negatively effect how you enjoy wine. Since your sniffer is responsible for 70-75% of your wine tasting experience, conditions like sinusitis will wreak havoc on one’s entire enjoyment of wine. Dehydration is another key factor. Your water intake will significantly alter how sensitive you are to tasting and smelling wine. What you eat changes wine profiles on your palate. This translate to: if your daily cuisine consists of really spicy food, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be able to taste much from the wine! Additionally, prescription meds have the ability to ruin one’s enjoyment of wine. This goes beyond the “don’t consume alcohol” sticker that gets put on the side of that bottle. We are talking about gross aftertastes that can be left behind from Rx meds, or even the fact that they can hinder sensitivities to smelling and tasting. I don’t think I need to discuss the smoking question. If I do, well… smoke on baby!
2. EMOTIONAL HEALTH
Feeling down? Depressed? Don’t drink wine. Not only is it a bad idea to drown your sorrows in booze, but why would you want to drink when you’re down and out? Your mouth just becomes a vehicle for the alcohol. C’mon, think about it. Do you really stop to smell the “roses” in the wine when you’re not having the best day?
Okay, hear me out. A big difference between the make-up of men and women is in the hormone department. I said hear me out! Hormones “suppl[y] all our senses and affects our brain activity. Women, generally, have a more acute sense of smell. This is directly related to the female hormone, estrogen” (Finstein, Ask the Wine Doctor, pp.150) I’ll leave it at that.
Aside from the obvious sensory perception that is effected by various foods and moods, we are also influenced by So-and-So-who-scored-that-bottle-with-the-funky-label a 92 points. Let’s get one thing straight: enjoyment of wine is pure subjectivity. Drink what you like and what tastes good to you. Joe Blow who scored that bottle at 82 points enjoyed it on his scale of 100. Reality check: that bottle might be a 96 for you, my friend. Additionally, once you find that bottle that sings to you, don’t get stuck in that wine rut by ONLY buying that wine. Just because you perceive it to be the best wine ever, doesn’t mean that your local libations store didn’t just receive some possibly new and adventurous vino. Try drinking only Pinot Noir from a variety of producers for a few months and see how your perception of Pinot Noir changes (for better or for worse). It’ll be fun, I promise.
5. EDUCATION & ENGAGEMENT
Not every bottle you buy in the store is actually “good”. By “good” I mean that there are many types of defects in wines that the average consumer isn’t aware of. For example, a bottle might be corked, or it may be going through secondary fermentation. Knowledge plays a huge part in the hedonism of wine. If you notice the smell of wet dog coming out of that bottle you just pulled the cork on, recork it and bring it back! Don’t drink it; it’s not good. Someone who isn’t up on faults in wine may end up drinking that bottle and never actually get an honest glimpse of it because they thought it tasted like crap. Not fair. Poor little bottle of wine! One doesn’t have to have their Ph.D. in wine education, but a basic understanding of grape varieties (and the characteristics of each), storage guidelines, temperatures to serve wine at, etc., are all going to help you enjoy wine a bit more.
Temperature can be a total douchebag or he can be your best friend. Ideal serving temperatures is not something to stick your nose up at. If white wine is too warm, you’ll suffer through that glass. If red wine is too cold, you won’t experience its true nature. Who you are having wine with is also an important factor in the enjoyment of wine. Having a relaxing evening with your best friends? Of course that wine is going to be more pleasurable! On a business luncheon with someone who could make or break your career? You’re not really paying attention to what is in your glass, are you?
This, obviously, isn’t an exhaustive list of the factors that will alter your wine pleasures, but they are a few to keep in mind as you journey your way through each bottle. Awareness is a wonderful thing!