How do we taste wine? Ask Maurice O’Shea

How do we taste wine?  How do we appreciate what wine has to offer?  As explained in my upcoming book Wine Sense, we taste wine through our senses.  The concept of taste is cross-modal, using our eyes, our nose and our mouth.  Tasting wine comes together through all the human senses.  But four senses prevail when appreciating wine.  Sight, smell, taste (specifically through our taste buds) and mouth feel.  But our sight is so predominant, it often overrules what we experience with our nose and our mouth.  This sometimes causes stimulus errors which deceive us when drinking wine.  Wine Sense teaches us how to smell and taste wine better.  It provides an understanding and techniques you can use to trust what is in your nose and what is in your mouth.  Many believe they can never achieve this, but I do and that is why I have made the effort with Wine Sense in an attempt to help you to gain trust in your nose and mouth.

Maurice OSheaMaurice O’Shea was one of Australia’s, if not the world’s, best wine makers.  He also had bad eyesight.  I am reading Campbell Mattinson’s great book on O’Shea entitled Wine Hunter.  It tells of O’Shea having just found out he cannot join the French army in WW1 because his eyesight is so bad.  Happy about this turn of events (which allowed him to study viticulture and winemaking), he shouts a nice meal out for his friends in Montpellier.  They allow the chef to prepare what he likes.  They are happy, eating and drinking, but O’Shea realizes the texture and taste of the meat to be different, even though his friends do not.  They later find out they have been eating domestic cat as meat is scarce during the war in France.

As Mattinson relates of young Maurice: “he wondered whether his taste and smell had grown more acute as his eyes had dimmed, as if his other senses had become heightened, as if his sense of smell and his sense of taste had developed into his gift.”  Mattinson goes on to describe what O’Shea learned about himself that night: “and he knew something in himself that he had not known before – he could trust his mouth.  He could trust his nose. He could feel the taste of things that others could not.”

Until you learn to trust your nose and your mouth, you will be sold wine, you will be told how to taste wine, and you will be told what you like by others.  When you learn to trust your nose and your mouth to taste wine, you then learn to truly enjoy and appreciate wine more.  And as O’Shea points out, by dimming your sense of sight, you can attune your nose and mouth more acutely.  You can learn from others, especially when drinking in the presence of others who know more about wine tasting than you do.  Learn from them, but learn to trust your nose and mouth.

Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, due out July 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley. All rights reserved.
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