Wine Pleasure

Wine
pleasure-neon sign

 

Pleasure is a very tricky thing to discuss because we haven’t the clearest sense of what it is.  Too often our understanding stems from a negative judgement. This judgement is connected to a misunderstanding.  We conflate pleasure with extreme hedonism. Hedonism is a philosophy which seeks pleasure and avoids pain, extreme hedonism emphasizes pleasure above all else and seeks to avoid pain at all cost.   

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher and hedonist who believed, our sensations and preconceptions and our feelings are the standards of truth”.  His focus was on what makes us happy.

His hedonism was a measured and thoughtful exploration of pleasure. One that required people to have attainable and sustainable pleasures whose absence does not result in pain. That particular attachment to desire is called addiction which is the negation of pleasure.

When tasting wine we, like Epicurus, use our sensations and feelings as a way to learn about  and experience the wine. We learn to connect to the physical sensations wine produces in us with ideas and images and articulate them.

And so when we talk about wine and pleasure, it is why I emphasize being tipsy as opposed to drunk. Tipsy is a heightened state.  When you’re drunk, you’re not enhanced you are trashed.  You are no longer able to delight in the experience because too you’re too busy vomiting or trying not to vomit.

By carefully considering our sensations and learning to articulate and share those perceptions with like minded pleasure seekers we avoid the pitfalls of overindulgence by using pleasure as a way to develop connection to our ourselves, people and the world around us.

Below please find a few ideas on pleasure as well as some helpful tips to enhance your wine pleasure.

In the next post we will talk about enjoying wine the Spanish way.

What Pleasure Is

  • Saying yes to something you enjoy
  • Time
  • Sharing with friends
  • Enjoying on your own
  • Moderation

What Pleasure Isn´t

  • Overindulgence
  • Rocking your world, bowling you over or any such highly intense state

Pleasure and the wine experience

The very way we drink (and eat) can enhance or detract from our pleasure.  Always take a moment to appreciate the wine, admire it´s color, smell it and then drink.  It is almost exactly the same as the tasting process.  If you are with friends share your impressions and make a toast!  Also do add music, a candle, or just revel in silence.

Wine Pleasure Dos and Don´ts

Do

  • Sit down
  • Be open and enthusiastic
  • Silence or music (not TV)
  • Take time (even if it is just 10 min)
  • Notice the color
  • Notice the smell
  • Notice the taste

Don´t

  • Come in with high expectations
  • Stand (unless at a bar)
  • Have any static noise in the background
  • Be in a hurry

 

The Pleasure Principle

plasure giphy

Let Janet set you free!

Indulge me friends, as I am about to release my uber nerdy philosophical self on you, full force!  Sit down, relax and grab a glass of wine, what I am about to say is not in service to abstract thoughts too light to sustain earth’s gravitational pull, but directly related to how we live, more specifically how we drink.

As a food and wine lover I am obsessed with pleasure.  However, my love and celebration of pleasure has nothing to do with excess but with connecting my experience to the physical sensations it produces and pursuing activities that promote those sensations. The fact that I must explain myself is indicative of how mixed up we’ve become about pleasure as an essential factor for a good life. I am lucky to come from a family that put an emphasis on enjoying life.  For George and Ella that meant food, from shopping to cooking, to hosting parties and dinners.  Every aspect of the process was discussed, planned and executed as a family.  I took this attitude for granted until I entered other homes and was shocked to see no such excitement, let alone love of food.  I soon learned that the majority of folks just weren´t so interested in food and wine.  For them,  it was a way to show status or respond to bodily necessities.  In fact, there is (in US culture) a certain shame associated with enjoying food and wine too much.  Such pleasure is private (and mostly related to sex) which we all know has no place at the dinner table!

But most erroneously, pleasure is linked to overindulgence. This stems from the way it has been confused with its kissing cousin hedonism.  Hedonism is the Greek word for pleasure and as practiced by a certain group of extreme Epircurians.  It was indulgent, superficial and needy in its exclusive focus on pleasure over pain at all cost. Extremists lurk in all philosophies and ideologies and like your crazy uncle Bob they just don’t know when to quit.

Epicureanism, named for it’s founder Epicurius, is a philosophy which contends that “our sensations and preconceptions and our feelings are the standards of truth”. Sadly today, it is almost exclusively linked to hoity, toity food and drink and the snobby people who love it.  Like most things in life, the Epicureanism espoused today cannot be farther from what the founder had in mind.  His was a measured and thoughtful exploration of pleasure. One that required people to have attainable and sustainable pleasures whose absence does not result in pain. That particular attachment to desire is called addiction, which is the opposite of pleasure. 

And so when we talk about wine, it is why I emphasize being tipsy as opposed to drunk. Aside from aesthetic and reputation considerations, when you are drunk you aren’t enhanced; you are trashed. You are no longer able to delight in the experience because you’re too busy vomiting or trying not to vomit.

By carefully considering our sensations and learning to articulate and share those perceptions with like-minded pleasure seekers we avoid the pitfalls of selfish indulgence by using pleasure as a way to develop connection to our ourselves, people and the world around us. 

If you’re in Madrid come join me this Sunday, 24 April as we dig into some really tasty wines and discover our inner Janet Jackson. Tickets are 15€ (pay at the door) but space is limited!  RSVP here.

Pleasure Is All Mine

pleasure-neon sign

Now that Spring is in full swing, we find ourselves in its unpredictable but exhilarating grasp and heading towards summer.

Summer is arguably the most pleasurable of all seasons, (unless you happen to be in Madrid in July),  and as the songs goes, “Summertime and the living is easy”.  To prepare for this glorious season we will focus our attention on pleasure.  Over the next four blog posts, we will explore what pleasure is and isn’t,  ponder why it is such an integral part of wine tasting, explain the Spanish way of enjoying wine, and offer some dos and don’ts to enhance your wine drinking experience.

My hope is that this information will empower you to take charge of your wine experience by maximizing your pleasure.  To get things started I have included a Spotify music list, The Pleasure Principle. As we explore pleasure, we will take a look at different ways to enhance our experience.  For example, is there any particular music you like to listen to when drinking wine?   This is a collaborative effort so feel free to add your choice to the list or put the song in the comments below.

Be sure to tune-in for the next exciting  installment as we travel back to ancient Greece and get all philosophical with Epicurius, the godfather of pleasure, to get the skinny on what pleasure is and isn´t.

 

Label Demystification II: What´s with the barrels?

Before winemakers used wooden barrels, they stored and transported their wine in clay pots called amphorae.  Man, all I can say is that must´ve really sucked for the soldiers stuck with the task of transporting that wine.  Lucky for them and for us, this all changed one fateful day when the Romans encountered the beer loving Gauls. The Gauls transported their brew in wooden casks, which were much lighter and thus easier to carry around. For more details on this story check out this VinePair article. They also noticed that the barrels gave the wines a certain aroma and flavor, over the centuries winemakers have used barrel storage as an important tool in enhancing or creating certain desireable characteristics.

A Tale of Two Oaks

European oak is from France, Hungary, or Italy.  It is more porous.  It goes without saying that European oak is more expensive than American oak but there is a legitimate reason (other than being European) for the price difference. The timber is cut in such a way that means they use less wood and so therefore need more trees to make each barrel.  European oak has a smoking pipe aroma, it is sweet, spicy (think clove), and aromatic.

Like this gentlemen.

054366:Portrait of a Fisherman Cullercoats Unknown c.1920s

Newcastle satly dawg.

American oak is from North America (Canada and the United States) it is less expensive than European oak.  It is reminiscent of 1970s men´s cologne. It has notes of cinnamon, coffee, black tobacco and artificial vanilla (to me this means it has a metallic quality to it).

This image comes to mind.

Aramis 70s cologne adA

Armando is enjoying an aperitif before dinner.

Some winemakers are very Catholic in their loyalty to one type over another, but nowadays a lot more winemakers are experimenting with both in an effort to extract the best qualities from each.

Which brings us to this guy.

hipster pipe and beard 2

2016 hipster dude.

See how he has combined the best of the old school with the new school?  Sure he´s a bit self-conscious, clearly he hasn´t quite made this look his own but give him some time!  Same goes with the new generation Spanish winemakers, their wines are fun, less stuffy and more interesting, if not always perfect.  Our good fortune is getting to enjoy them as they find their way.