He’s 40ish, Peruvian (maybe), dressed in slouchy indigo jeans and a chambray shirt, standing in dusty, broken-in Birkenstocks. And, he is stressed from a recent marital breakup. While this sounds like a person, in actuality, it’s typical of how I describe a wine sometimes. I see people when I taste wine.
Looking back, I think my earliest recollection of describing a person when tasting wine is when I wrote a short piece on Amarone della Valpolicella for Vegas Seven Magazine and described her as a stunningly beautiful woman in her mid 40s wearing a velvet dress. I suppose my attempt to characterize this delicious and supple red wine from the Veneto region of Italy was probably pretty accurate. And along with conventional tasting notes, maybe it got the message across. But, since then I’ve been seeing images of people in my mind when I taste wine. These are still images, by the way. Could this be a form of synesthesia?
I’ve told only a few people that I trust about what I see when I drink wine, just to examine their reactions, and I’ve generally received positive remarks and sometimes sprinkled in with a little “Watcha talkin’ bout Willis?” But I totally get it. Because rather than coming out with a description like “lemon peel, crushed rock and saline,” my descriptors are “freckle-faced, youthful 15-year-old girl, whose parents own a bakery specializing in fruit tarts.” I do admit it’s rather bizarre – almost embarrassing even – so and I’ve been banishing this reality. However, since I’ve started Marisas Wine Doodles, I’ve found that including these human characteristics to describe the wine actually fits in with the whimsical nature of my doodles. Finally a place to bury the craziness!
The reality is, I do see people – from all walks of life, people I’ve never met – appear when I taste wine. Let me explain how this whole pseudo-synesthesia came about.
Years ago, I was sitting with a group of sommeliers at a German Riesling tasting. And like a good journalist, I was taking notes of the presentation and describing the flavors and aromas of each wine. Admittedly, I’m not the best at identifying these things yet, so usually my notes are pretty sparse. Anyway, I was enjoying this lovely educational tasting and at the end of the hour, I noticed that some of my notes were descriptions of people, not the wine’s flavors and aromas. What was I to do a this point? I’ve missed so much conversation and I now had notes that were basically worthless. Stunned by my scribbles, I just carefully flipped the page so that nobody else would notice.
Since that day, I’ve been very conscious of my reactions and tasting notes and occasionally, just when I let my guard down, a person shows up. By the way, I’ve only had one animal show up – a horse – and it was for Schieppetino.
Admittedly this is a little nutty. And, I really don’t know where this is coming from. I don’t experience this with other beverages or foods, and I don’t need to have any background on the wine that I’m tasting before someone appears in my mind. As long as it hits my palette and my olfactories, she/he is there – with a least half the wines I taste.
So when you ask me what I’m tasting and smelling in a wine, I’ll struggle to come up with an acceptable description, like “Twizzler candy, banana, lemon curd.” (I need to work on this). Instead I might say “gramma gumming on banana peel” or “Eastern European pianist in her 20s.” And by all means, please don’t judge when I totally go off and say, “She’s is in her mid-40s, tan or olive skin, former surfer, but now mother of three who lives in a beach house provided by her husband who is never, ever home. Once extremely frustrated, she’s now rejuvenated and resilient, pouring her emotions into her new love – oil paining.”
By the way, that was the Pfeffingen Scheurebe Trocken 2016 from Pfalz. And, yes, she was vividly delicious!
Can you guess the person in the doodle above?