Terri's 5 Things: April
This post is part of our 5 Things series, a journal of sorts where we take a moment to ponder five boozy topics that we've been thinking or learning about lately.
1. Learning to articulate the experience of drinking
One of the most profound, and hardest, parts of this Booze Hags project has been pushing myself to articulate the sensations of drinking. After reading Marissa A. Ross’ Wine. All the Time, (AKA The Booze Hags Bible), I’m compelled to learn how to better describe what I’m drinking, so that I can find more of what I love and drink less of what I don’t. I just didn’t expect how hard that would be!
I set myself a challenge of coming up with at least one word – just one freakin’ word – to describe each new wine’s appearance, aroma and taste. And still, I honestly find it so hard. Just one freakin’ word! I find myself sitting and staring at my glass of wine, racking my brain for a single adjective or turn of phrase to describe the colour, all the while desperate to just drink the damn thing. Resisting the urge to give up and forge on mindlessly has been pretty shockingly hard.
In turn I’m forced to slow down, to let myself relax and sink into the tastes and textures and aromas. It almost feels like a little rebellion, staking out these small moments to absorb and revel in these basic senses. Marissa says that “The wine-tasting process forces us to be present and pay attention by isolating and addressing individual senses,” and it’s just so damn true. And yeah, being present and paying attention can feel so hard after a draining day at work – but it’s starting to feel like so much more of a gift to myself to just stop and make drinking an active rather than passive experience.
It still takes a lot to work at, but the more I just take that time to be present, the more it comes. I continue to feel a nagging hesitancy in describing wine in terms of getting it ‘wrong’ – which is totally stupid, because I know that taste is subjective etc etc etc but still, there’s a foundation of basic aromas and tastes that I feel like I need to learn and be able to lean on. I’ve recreated some of Marissa’s tasting charts and stuck them to the wall in the hope that it will eventually start to sink in. It’s a big messy work in progress, but I’ve got to believe it will get easier!
2. The satisfaction of opening a corked wine
Australians are rather spoilt with the convenience of screw-capped wine; turns out 99% of locally-produced wine is ready at just the flick of a wrist due to a massive domestic shift towards screw-caps in the 2000s . As such my drinking days have been intimidated by the odd corked stuff I’d come across here and there, and paired with a few very shoddy army-knife corkscrew attempts it always just seemed too hard.
Two things have very much forced me to get over this anxiety, however: for one, I’m exploring more wines from overseas, and secondly, corks seem to be the done thing for many minimal intervention wines (which I’ve been geeking out over big-time lately, see below), even locally. So after an initial failure-to-launch with a $4 winged corkscrew from the supermarket that broke on its second bottle, I shelled out $18 for a Pulltap’s double-hinged corkscrew and haven’t looked back.
And what a thrill it is to use! Until this corkscrew came into my life, I had literally never had a smooth cork extraction experience before. Not one. It was always a desperate trauma of grunting and yanking for far longer than I care to admit. A quality corkscrew has transformed this ordeal into such a satisfying ritual; I love the process of twisting the ‘worm’ in, hooking the notched lever on the lip of the bottle and slipping the cork out with such gentle effort. It’s awesome.
Now I’m not saying cork is better than screw-cap my any means. That seems to be a whole other thing that I am way too naive to know anything about. But being able to uncork a wine with ease is just making me feel really clever and cosmopolitan right now and I’m gonna bask in that feeling for a long while.
3. Feeling like a whole new Melbourne is ripe to explore
Have you ever heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon? The classic example is when you’ve just bought a new car, and then all of a sudden you start seeing that car, like, frigging everywhere. It’s a cognitive bias also known as the frequency illusion, whereby “a word, a name, or other thing that has recently come to one's attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards”. There’s a whole bunch of sneaky brain stuff going on that makes us feel that way, but what I’m really getting at is this: ever since kicking off The Booze Hags it’s like booze events are suddenly happening everywhere, all the damn time.
So obviously this is not new at all: Melbourne has apparently always had this nerdy booze scene and now we’re just attuned to it. And what a treat it is! It’s almost like a whole new city has opened itself up to us. Alongside our Noisy Ritual adventures, we’ve also been to events by The Wine Gallery, Milton Wine Shop, and we’re off to Gauchito Gil’s Malbec Day later this month. Plus, we’ve discovered a trove of amazing new drinking holes like City Wine Shop, The Everleigh, The Alps and Smithward – places that ooze enthusiasm for their product and are excited to geek out with two booze hags like us.
Again, it’s awesome, and I can’t wait to keep exploring this new side of Melbourne.
4. Discovering minimal intervention wines
Cass included this in her 5 Things last month, but I couldn’t help but echo her here: discovering natural or minimal intervention wines has been a total game-changer. I am absolutely loving discovering how totally different and interesting wines can taste when approached with minimal intervention practices and creativity. There is so much out there that puts a totally different spin on familiar grape varieties, as well as surfacing entirely new ones for me. They’re wonderful and weird in various measures.
In retrospect I realise that I’ve probably encountered these wines intermittently over the years without really knowing it, and it’s manifested in a vague but persistent desire to find wine that’s ‘weird’, or ‘interesting’; useless descriptors that have been fairly frustrating for bottle-shop and wait-staff I’m sure. This said, I don’t believe that minimal intervention wines are the only wines that can taste this way – it’s just that right now it’s such a huge noticeable difference and I bloody love it.
5. Passing on the love
My last Thing this month is simply this: it has been such a joy to share the fruits of our Booze Hags labour; that is, to share new discoveries with friends and family, and see in them reflected a spark of excitement and interest in learning about drinking as we do. This feels like what The Booze Hags is all about, and I’m thrilled for so many more of these moments to come.