Drinking wine is easy: tilt glass and swallow. Tasting wine is more of a challenge. You need special tools, the proper environment, keen concentration, a good memory and a vivid imagination. But after three or four glasses, the basic effect is the same either way. So why bother? I’m a baseball fan. When I take a friend who knows nothing about the sport to the ballpark, he may enjoy the crowd, down a hot dog, cheer if someone hits a home run. The rest of the time he’s asking me, What’s the big deal? One guy throws a ball, the other guy misses it. But for me, every pitch is a small drama: what the pitcher chooses to throw, how the defense sets up, where the batter tries to hit it, how the strategies play out. When nine innings are over, we both know the score. But while my friend may have passed a pleasant afternoon, I’ve been totally absorbed in the game.
Life can be lived in a casual way, or plumbed to the depths. We all choose how and where to spend our energy and attention. You may play music, cook seriously, tend a lovely garden. Maybe the things you love aren’t vital, but they make life richer. Passion is never wasted effort.
That’s why wine lovers learn to taste. We know that the effort we put into understanding and appreciating wine—as opposed to simply enjoying it (or its psychotropic effects)—pays big dividends. Really tasting wine adds an extra dimension to the basic daily routines of eating and drinking. It turns obligation into pleasure, a daily necessity into a celebration of life.