Once when I was little, my friend Katherine told me she could smell sunshine. My first reaction was, “That is impossible!” and then I tried to understand what she meant. Was I missing something? Even now I find myself thinking about what she meant. I can smell how sunshine affects the world around us, like sunshine on the skin or when sunshine hits grass, but can I smell sunshine by itself? Katherine’s honesty that only a child delivers still resonates with me all these years later. She was not lying or boasting: that was how she sensed the world. She helped me to think, for the first time, about how I sensed the world.
When we eat and drink, we use our senses to experience and judge. Many people, who don’t often drink wine, tell me when they do, they have a hard time describing what they are tasting. One hears, “It tastes like wine” or “I can’t tell the difference”. In a way, they are being honest, but not because they are not getting information from their eyes, nose, or tongue. Our senses connect us to the outside world by providing massive amounts of data. If we consciously tap into this data stream, every mundane moment of the day would seem very complex. We see, we taste, we smell, we hear, and we touch all at the same time. Our brains sift through this information quickly, deciding what is important and what is not. Most of that data is brushed aside as white noise or static. If you train yourself, you can recognize and understand your senses by reading the static.
Take a moment and think of only one of the five senses. What is going on with that sense? Then, think harder. There is more going on then you first thought. It is the loudest noise or the strongest smell that dominates our first impression but that doesn’t mean that there are not other sounds or smells happening at the same time. Everything from the air we breathe and the water we taste has smell and taste. Now take a moment and think about two senses at the same time. All of our senses work at the same time and they play off of each other to give us an experience. By thinking about two senses the experience becomes richer, more intense and more in the moment. The same is true when tasting wine.
So the next time you grab a bottle, pop a cork, pour a glass and see the color of a fine wine, think about what you are experiencing. Maybe you too can sense something great like smelling a little sunshine.
John Lyon, Winemaker