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21 January 2020

The touch of wine

By Olga Antoniadou

I have just returned from a vertical tasting of Château de Pibarnon from Bandol and, to me, it was an eye-opener. To begin with, I am not particularly familiar with the Mourvèdre variety. I haven’t tasted too many wines made of this variety, and the very few that I have tasted were part of blends. Secondly, this wine made me particularly conscious of how wine leaves an impression on all five of our senses. This wine ‘touched’ the inner linings of my mouth, and this chalky touch I carried for a while later. Mind you. Not in a bothersome way, but it stayed, it lingered. You may think, “c’mon now, we all know that”, but, please, allow me to make my argument.

More often than not, when we taste wine we think of it as a drink that has to do with aromas and taste. I’m not saying everybody, or the very knowledgeable, I’m talking about most people. Most people who drink and enjoy wine will make a point of taking opportunities to taste different wines. I often watch people, without them knowing I’m watching. Oh dear! That sounded almost as if I’m a peeping Tom. Maybe I am, in a way. Anyway, when I watch people at tastings, or wine fairs, as soon as they are poured their wine, they will start swirling it madly in the glass, almost provocatively, the way a washing machine starts to slowly spin and then they will very knowingly put their nose into the glass, smile contentedly, and in a manner of self-assurance will begin to talk and gesture to their company. They will then take a sip, slurp, and swallow, again probably saying something about what they thought about what went down.

It is seldom that I will see someone looking at their wine. Taking the time to take in what they see. Tilting their glass to get a look at the colour, or even holding it up to see how light plays its games with the liquid they are looking at. Usually, if someone is looking at the colour, that person is probably a wine professional. What a great pity! I find that this is what makes wine special. It is such a particularly sense gratifying experience. It affects our sight, smell, taste, touch and even our hearing. All five senses take part in the ‘tasting’. You look at your wine and see the colour. Such an amazing array of shades. Some colours are so enticing you feel you’re in love with the wine before you’ve even brought it anywhere near your nose or mouth.

And yes, smell is important and so is taste. These two senses go hand in hand. Each illustrates and emphasizes the other. And yes, we need to swirl. Not fiercely and forever, but just enough to bring the shy aromas to the fore. Maybe, the more impressive part of the tasting. And then, we take our sip and allow the liquid to coat our tongue and our gums. And…. believe it or not, this is when the tactile experience takes place. Wine actually ‘touches’ the inside of your mouth and this is a separate experience to the taste and smell that is taking place. It can burn your tongue a little, or it can leave a feeling of ‘coating’ that sits on it and around the inside lining of your mouth. And this persists. It can be gripping, or soft and smooth, or chalky, or like someone took your gums and squeezed them of their excess juice. 

I can’t think of many drinks that involve all of our senses at once and manage to tickle everything just enough. Even our ears. Auditory. The trickling sound of pouring, the tingle of toasting glasses, the gratifying slurp to take in the aromas. Even the comments it elicits. I won’t tell you what I thought of the wine I tried last night. But, it was this wine, with its particular tactile sensation, that made me think that I would like to remind people to take note next time they try a wine, to enjoy the complete ‘sensual’ gratification and not focus only on the very obvious.

About Olga

A South-African Greek who has practiced psychiatry and analytic therapy for the greater part of her career, but is also in love with wine. She attained the WSET Level 3 qualification and is currently trying to blend these seemingly disparate interests. Writing about the different brews and the people behind them is her newfound enjoyment. She has also recently started oenophilesandfoodies.com, to promote Greek wine, olive oil and honey. You can find more of her writing on the blog she keeps. She will be contributing to the site on a monthly basis.

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