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Memories & Wine Psychology

Wine psychology is fascinating. Period. 

The longer I work in wine, the more I am amazed how people form impressions about specific wines that have nothing to do with how they taste.

I love to use my husband's journey in discovering his wine palate as an example. When Joe and I first started dating, I asked him what kind of wine he enjoyed. He proudly and confidently declared that his favorite wine was Pinot Noir. Excellent. I too was, and am, a Pinot Noir lover; and even if I weren't, there is no wrong answer to that question.

I didn't think twice. Until, we started drinking wine together. In those days, I was working in wine full-time, and at least once a month I was sent a box of wine from a winery or importer somewhere around the world that needed me to assist them in setting up a U.S. distribution network. My job was to taste every wine, rate them, educate others on them, and come up with a business model for them to succeed.  (It didn't suck).  While doing so I would hand my hubby glass-after-glass-after-glass of wine, without telling him what it was. I wanted to hear his thoughts, and I was eager to get his unbiased feedback. 

Turns out, after a few months of "forcing him" to taste hundreds of bottles of wine, I made a realization. Not only did my husband not like Pinot Noir, it was actually one of his least favorite grapes. 90% of the time, when he sampled a Pinot Noir (not knowing what it was), he would tell me he didn't particularly care for it. That it was "too tart."

It was time for me to dive in deeper...

As it turns out, Joe did his undergraduate studies in the Willamette Valley where he was surrounded by Pinot. He even helped at harvest time with some of the local wineries, and he developed a fondness for Pinot Noir as an idea, a lifestyle and a memory. But not necessarily, as a wine to consume. Fascinating isn't it?


The majority of time I ask someone what kind of wine they like to drink, they tell me about a grape they discovered while on some magical vacation over seas where the winemaker gave them a personal tour of the vineyards, before sitting them down to sample their line up of wines with a full plate of locally produced cheese.


They tell me about a getaway they took to Napa Valley where they indulged in fabulous food, Cabernet Sauvignon, and hospitality for a week and can't wait to go back.

Or.... (insert your story here).

We develop fondness to specific wines based on memories on an ongoing basis. This is exactly why wineries aspire to create an idealistic setting for their guests. And it isn't that we wouldn't like those wines in a different setting; however, I frequently wonder what realizations people would make if they had the blind exposure to the world of wine that my husband did years ago. 

Today, Joe would tell you that his favorite grape is Sangiovese. Excellent. I too am a Sangiovese lover. But again, there is no wrong answer to the question, "What wine do you most enjoy?" There is only opportunity to discover what your true answer is when bias is removed.

My advice: whenever possible, drink two wines at a time, and drink them blind. This enables us to compare and contrast flavor, texture, likes, and dislikes more directly. Drinking them blind, removes the bias. Neither has a memory attached to them. Neither is jaded by what someone told us we should think. Both conclusions are up to you to determine.

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