In the 1969, Italian author Italo Calvino wrote the Castle of Crossed Destinies where weary travelers were struck dumb. They could not utter a word. Instead they huddle around a wooden table laying out Tarot cards to speak to strangers. The cards crisscross an intertwined narrative. What’s remarkable is that his characters spoke through pictures. And much like the aim of this blog, I believe that complex notions can be communicated through other things than words. Big, important ideas arrive in the brain through Taste. “Ideas that taste good” is the mission.
Invitations for Winedendity (a wine identity party) went out a month before the first guest arrived. Each were to bring a bottle representing who they were as wine. Some already friends, some willing to take a chance to meet new ones. Their bottles were discretely slipped into brown bags with nothing more than their first name on it. No identifying characteristic. No proud label. No boastful vintner or wine age. All becomes revealed as the wine hit the tongue Yes, this is like having your resume come as a bottle of wine.
It wasn’t long before double entendre flew like bullets. “I’m having a glass of Susan.” “Oh, yeah? How is she?” “I’d say really vibrant on appearance. A bit silky on the tongue And that finish….haunting”
Tasting cards laid in front of each bottle. Guests reflect on 5 attributes. Color or the appearance. How is it when titled ever so and color bands emerge as the wine nears its edge.
Then aroma. Really the nature of the wine at our most primal encounter. Scent is directly tied to our emotional brains. And quite a powerful trigger for memory.
Next is taste or the personality. Would we find boldness or subtlety? Racy or earthy tones?
Mouth feel is the fourth attribute. You might say conversational style.
Last, is finish. What is the vague promise each of us make upon our goodbye?
This costume ball of wine tasting lasts for one hour. Then the wines revealed. 17 bottles in all. 2/3 rds come from California. The remainder from Europe. Guests saw themselves as Pinot Noir 1/3 of the time. Cabernet and Meritage (a blend of red) were the next two most popular. Just a couple of austere whites from France held court at the other end of the stadium.
Roast tenderloin, asparagus, home-made cranberry walnut bread, savory cheesecake filled in between sips. Circles of people formed and reformed. There was so much to learn about beautiful bottles and tasty personalities.
What did we accomplish with this experiment? Several things. Laughter. Connection. Deep appreciation for new taste. Those were the obvious.
Deeper still is how tasting cards differed from the author who brought the bottle and the reader who had a sip. We don’t see the label from outside of the bottle.
And it’s ok to be outrageous. Seriously, a double blind wine party about personality in a glass? Who thinks up this stuff? We all should. Don’t be afraid to experiment. To invite all to the table.
Last message. Be thoughtful about that next bottle you pluck as your next gift. The best offer we have for each other is ourselves. Pick one which speaks to your depth, your sincerity, your mission. And how they apply to the recipient.
Yes. Food, wine and ritual speak. What are you saying?
Want help to host a party like this? Want to know what I thought was the best bottle of the night? Put your thoughts in the comments field.
And the bottle I gave just the other day? Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio. Literally “Tears of Christ” from that volcano just outside of Naples. I walked in the shadows of the buildings where their people came. A wink and a nod to family and tradition. We are what we drink. And the company we keep.