A few nights ago I tasted a bottle of wine guided by a video, in which a bona-fide wine professional was tasting the very same bottle wine. It was Talinay Chardonnay, from Chile.
The video, featuring Wine Access' Head of Wine Vanessa Conlin, was done to support Wine Folly's Wine Club, which I belong to, which explains how the bottle wound up in my basement closet. The videos are a really cool add-on benefit of the club.
Something smells funny
So did it help to taste wine while watching an actual human wine expert taste it at the "same" time? Why, yes -- but not in ways I expected.
As usual, I failed at the fool's parlor game of "Smell what she smells." This happens all the time when I refer to others' tasting notes.
I didn't smell the yellow apple or lemon Conlin did. On the other hand, the suggestion of Asian pear did make me imagine that crispy juiceball quite vividly. No floral nuttin'.
But I did get this big crispy yeasty snort on first pass, and rich breakfasty something on my tongue. She called it "briochy," and "buttery," which is why she gets the big bucks.
Two things I learned by watching and tasting
Item 1. Trying to taste or smell what other people do -- or say they do -- sets you up for failure.
This whole thing of "appreciating" wine is built on a foundation of polyp-like receptors on your tongue and nasal apparatus, which send signals along an idiosyncratic latticework of nerve tissue to that glorious wet mess of a brain, whose folds carry the cybernetic residue of everything you've smelled and tasted or thought while you were smelling or tasting, your entire life. This includes that magnificent tomahawk ribeye at last year's anniversary dinner, that slightly funky gruyere you had at the little overpriced bistro on the 5th Arrondissement, and Ronny Turk's morning breath that time he whispered that he could see Bev's nipples through her white blouse in 4th grade [wait, was that my outside voice?].
The point is, trying to smell or taste what others do is no more likely to succeed than trying to dream their dreams.
Item 2. By contrast, learning about a wine -- that its grapes were grown on high, cool, limestone soil, that the vines actually were shipped from France, that Chile creates "chiseled" Chardonnays, which are like "lasered" Chablis -- really does help me enjoy that glassful more.
So learning about a wine before tasting it: Good. Tasting alone: Bad.
But huh: I just realized: I make videos in which I taste wine.