November 1, 2012 in Education
On countless occasions I have read about the effect your mood has on the outcome/impression you have when tasting wine. It always made sense, but I had never experienced how dramatically true it was, until this week. I sat down to record a video, but after a few minutes decided against it. I chose not to hit the record button because I realized I was in a really bad mood. I was angry, tired, had a little self-loathing going on, basically not the attitude you want to see when you are looking for a light-hearted wine review…well maybe you are, but we will save that for another day. Since the wine and the glass were already out, I still tasted the wine, no need to make the night a total waste, right? Wouldn’t you know it, the wine didn’t show well at all….no, scratch that, it showed horribly.
Sour mood tasting notes:
Sight – Ruby in color, little staining, thin.
Nose – Some smoke, chemically, tar, manure, old fish tank, ugh!
Palate – Cranberries, some strawberries, decent acidity. It’s balanced, but with a short finish.
Score – 84 points
This was a wine I had planned to use for an upcoming event, it was a wine I wanted to be good, and at the moment, it was a wine I needed to be good for my soul. And it sucked. Maybe “sucked” is a little too harsh, but that night, at that moment, it sucked! My mood and disposition soured even worse than before, I cut my losses and called it a night, hoping things would look better with a new day.
As always, the next morning found me in a better mood. The brain worked things out while I slept, what tormented me the night before had become an accepted challenge with the new sunrise. I was ready to head out and attack the day…but there it was. On the counter was the dagger from the night before, the exclamation point that so poignantly brought the previous day to its thankful end. Plans trashed, money wasted, a bottle of anger sat there mocking me. Even though I knew it could bring me right back to my previous mood, I had to know if it was really that bad. The results were nostril flaring…
Positive mood tasting notes:
Sight – Ruby, little to no glass staining, thin
Nose – Cranberry, cooking spices, smokey, and a little tomato leaf
Palate – Cranberry, big juicy cherries, cooking spices, nice acidity, and well balanced.
Score – 88 points
I was somewhat dumbfounded. How?…How on Earth could the wine show this much of a difference between tastings? The palate showed some variations, but they weren’t really that drastic. The nose, on the other hand, was night and day in how different they were. It was inconceivable that the discrepancies could be so stark. I kept going back in with my nose, time and time again trying to understand what was going on. Then it hit me….the wine smelled exactly the same as it did the night before. When I smelled the wine without trying to identify any particular components, I realized that there was really no differences, but how I was perceiving the wine had changed drastically. It makes sense too, after all, the sense of smell is directly related to past experiences and memories, so why wouldn’t the mood you were in also be associated to those memories, and thus affect what memories are brought forth when you smell something.
Does this experience mean anything for you? No, most likely not. Personally, it is a great lesson on how I need to approach tasting wines. If I am opening a bottle of wine to simply drink, I don’t think anything changes. It does, however, change when I am focused on tasting a wine, focusing on its every component, and more importantly, assigning a score to a wine. In these situations I need to ensure I am in the proper mindset to asses wine, and that process should include a mental check too.