May

14

Enjoyment

By mthomas

I am teaching on the Masters in Positive Psychology programme at UEL later today and am reflecting on what contributes to ‘enjoyment’ of  wine. I have had some amazing experiences recently (see below) and have previously argued that wine enjoyment W(e) can be understood as a function of 3 main variables; features of the wine itself (W),  the personality and physical attributes of the drinker (P), and the environment or context in which the wine is drunk (E). Thus W(e) = f (W, P, E). Positive psychologists work to build on strengths and have useful ways of thinking about the nature of enjoyment and it is interesting to reflect on what I enjoyed tasting this week and maybe unpick why it was so enjoyable.

On Tuesday I was lucky enough to be invited to a vertical tasting of Frank Cornelissen’s wines by David Harvey of Raeburn Fine Wines. Frank is an intense yet very amiable winemaker who settled on Etna as his ideal terroir. He makes wild, exciting wines with names like Magma. He doesn’t align himself to movements, be it biodynamics or natural wine, but has a clear ethical and conceptual framework which informs his craft. He ploughs his own furrow and in doing so produces wines that are individual and expressive. When matched with a menu specifically designed by Claude Bosi at Hibiscus (2 Michelin stars and rated in the top 50 eateries in the world) to match these wines, it is fair to say some of the contextual ‘enjoyment variables’ should be in place.

Frank talked us through his wines, giving us intimate insights into intellectual and emotional aspects of his work, as well as details of how each wine was made. I loved the 2006 Magma Rosso N0.5R Frank has a complex system for designating his wines and when unsatisfied he declassifies them. 2006 was a hard vintage due to the hot weather and his first in a ‘lined’ amphora. In appearance, much lighter than the 04s we also tried (4VA and 5R), it was a racy, perfumed thrilling wine. It was interesting to talk with other tasters as preferences varied greatly, as would scores I guess. There was consensus though  in terms of excitement and respect for Frank’s approach. Thus, in terms of variables, we had wine made with care, love even, great food designed to work with it that was cooked by a highly skilled chef, knowledgeable and engaged people to taste and talk with and the winemaker himself to enrich proceedings. This translated to great enjoyment and a memorable learning experience. I can only apologise to Neil Beckett Editor of The World of Fine Wine for eating his bread…

Another enjoyable event was a ‘Benchmark Tasting’ convened by Joe Muller at Corney and Barrow’s HQ near St Katherine’s dock. Joe put together a list that illustrated the strength and depth of C and Bs range. A 2007 Leflaive Macon-Verzé more Chablis than Puligny showed that you do not have to drink at premier cru level. Interestingly the stand out wine for me was another racy Sicilian red from 2006; the Tenuta di Passopisciaro, (pictured) made on the Franchetti Estate from Nerello Mascalese. It was a joy, light but mineral and thrilling. I am enjoying discovering my affinity for volcanic reds (and whites). Etna is on my must visit list now.

Joe, who manages private wine sales at C and B, encouraged us to relax with his understated engagement with the wines. We tasted a few bottles blind and participants had fun assuming various bodyshapes (hands in the air, fingers on nose etc.) depending on an ‘either or’ choice of variables (old or new world etc.) proposed by Joe.  One managed to rattle a chandelier by throwing up his hands excitedly and another embraced the ‘buttock grasp’ with a bit too much enthusiasm…

Again, my enjoyment at this tasting depended on the combination of good wine and good company combined with someone passionate and engaged with the wines. Joe is a rising star and would be a great choice for anyone wanting someone unpretentious to guide them through a list. Corney and Barrow are maintaining an excellent selection of wines across the price range and this helped matters. They also still provide that personal service which the supermarkets can never match. Long may such variables which are integral to enjoyment, for me anyway, be maintained.

3 Responses so far

I would say W(e) = f (W, P, E, I), where I is the information the taster is given, whether true or false. In fact, under normal circumstances, I think information is probably the dominant factor. It covers, for example, a) the label, b) price, c) wine colour, which could be manipulated, or lied about, d) what people around might be saying about the wine as you are tasting it, e) any wine education you may have received, and f) the position of the moon if you believe in that sort of thing. (Thanks in general for the intersting posts BTW.)

Steve

I think you may some useful points although information can be seen as primarily a contextual variable. Of course how each of us makes sense of the information we are given is important but for me this is part of the personality variable. Keep posting comments. Thanks

OK, I see what you are saying. I suppose I was trying to emphasise the information conveyed by the context, as opposed to the general mood/atmosphere. And I am not sure how you would fit prior knowledge about wine into the 3 factors. I think you would have to stretch the definitions of P or E – either the context is extended far into the past, or you say the information has been assimilated into the person.

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