Inspiration, Wine Essays, Wine Pairing

Wine is Memory; Maybe Memory is Wine

I’ve been reading all the entries in the latest #MWWC21 Wine Blog writing contest. The topic is pairing…but what struck me the most in all these entries was that it’s not about the wine and food pairing, but about the memories that wine evokes. Whether they realize it or not, everyone mentioned a memory associated with a particular wine, and sometimes with a particular pairing.

As I was reading, my own wine memories began coming to the fore, reminding me of certain wines I fell in love with at the time. Yet, it’s the memories associated with those wines, the moments in time, the happenings while drinking the wine that seem to matter more. Think about a wine you love and chances are, you’ll find a memory associated with that wine.

Ron Washam, writer of HoseMaster of Wine blog, renders the point succinctly:

The older I get, the more I notice that when I taste wine, I think more about my feelings about wine, my accumulated memories, than I think about aromatics and alcohol level and descriptors. I smell a California Cabernet, and I’m home. I put a glass of Hermitage to my nose and I’m that kid who “discovered” Hermitage 35 years ago and was astonished that anything could be that wonderful. I open a Chablis and I remember all the Raveneau I used to drink and how now I can’t fucking afford it. Wine is memory. And maybe memory is wine. Put the most dramatic ones away for a couple of decades, and when you finally examine them again they’ve transformed into something completely different. Something that makes you deeply grateful, as I am grateful for Josie; or something that makes you buy an automatic weapon and kill people. Like wine, how you store memory is what matters in the long run.

Wine is memory. I can count on one hand the wines that have left an indelible impression on me, and for each of those wines, it may be the memory that entrenches itself most in me. My lover and I spending a rare day away, wine tasting in the Brandywine Valley area in PA. We splurged on a $20 wine tasting at Va La Vineyards ($20…I know…sounds crazy…see my specific wine review here), pairing artisanal foods/cheese with their wines and I fell in love, deeper than I ever imagined. Not only with their 2011 Prima Donna, an exquisite white blend, paired with a local honeyed goat cheese, but with my lover. She shimmers in an ethereal light, blending with the golden wheat hue of the wine and the silky richness of the cheese. A simple moment that etches itself on your body, imprints in your memory, never to be forgotten.

I bought some of the cheese and the wine, hoping to recreate the pairing at home. I tried. I really did. Sure, the food and wine pairing did its same magical dance in my mouth, but the memory overshadowed the re-creation of the moment. It is the memory that mattered more. Now I can’t drink that wine without recalling that moment, feeling the blossoming of deeper love with the wine, the food, and the woman. I try to share the same experience with friends that I had with this wine, and they don’t get it. They don’t feel the same tremulous light I felt at that moment. And that’s okay. It’s not their memory. It’s mine.

Wine is memory. And maybe memory is wine. As Ron said, “The older I get, the more I notice that when I taste wine, I think more about my feelings about wine, my accumulated memories, than I think about aromatics and alcohol level and descriptors.” Sure, the technical always comes to mind, but I find myself waxing poetic about the wine, sharing memory pictures that is evoked by the wine. I find people relate to the pictures rather than the technical. Maybe wine writing needs more pictures rather than ABV’s, and wine specific language.

Stop saving those expensive bottles for a ‘special moment’…create the special moment by popping those corks anytime. Wine isn’t meant to be stored and hoarded in dark, dusty corners, but shared with those you love, (and sometimes those you don’t love). Only then will the wine become special because it becomes the moment, the memory, that matters.

What wine memories have imprinted on you?

4 thoughts on “Wine is Memory; Maybe Memory is Wine

    1. I think the post I quoted is one of the few where he really did that. It felt honest and raw, unusual for him. But then, San Bernardino did that to most people. In his case…someone has to be the voice of humour and sarcasm! 😉

  1. Love your post! When I start to get anxious about sharing the descriptors of a certain wine with someone & can only say “l like it” but don’t remember specifics, my easygoing husband reminds me why we had originally loved wine – the enjoyable moment we had lived in and the memory we carry now.

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