We always remember our first time, no matter what it is. I clearly recall my introduction to the wine world. I used to meet certain clients for lunch, seasoned experts in the art of living who became my mentors in this seemingly hedonistic world. I was young(er) and had to learn fast so that my choices would not disappoint my fellow diners.
There was no internet back then. Resources were limited to specialized trade magazines or checking the Sunday edition of national papers to find recommendations and reviews of new wine releases. What inspired me to improve my enological understanding, however, was my own curiosity.
And so I found myself in my first class, part of the quarterly activities organized at Club Torres Oro on Carrer Aribau in Barcelona.
I remember Vinyet Almirall's tasting notes perfectly. The brightness in her eyes, the passion in every remark—I etched it into my memory as though capturing the very spirit of wine—along with her cheerful smile whenever she re-encountered familiar aromas.
Astounded and saturated with information, I took home a fascinating memory. During subsequent sessions, I began to recognize the aromas that reside in the glass, and ever since, I have used practical examples to search my olfactory memory for aromas with a representative image.
SThe course also offered parallel sessions, fascinating talks on identifying different levels of quality in a host of gastronomic products, such as Majorcan sobrasada, wild-caught salmon, extra virgin olive oil, and more. What impressed me the most, however, was a workshop on Riedel glassware, where I learned that every type of wine goes with a certain kind of glass that fully expresses the magic contained in the bottle. This involved tasting four wines in four different wine glasses, as well as in a generic glass. The same wine expressed itself differently in each one, finally finding the perfect match, the kind of ever-lasting union where container and content complete each other to become seamless travel companions, the glass emphasizing every attribute the wine seeks to convey.
Several field trips completed the course where we learned about the various seasons in the vineyard, like pruning and harvesting, as well as stages of the winemaking process or seeing how wineries work with barrels of different toast levels. These excursions ended with a lunch amid the vineyards of Mas Rabell, the country house that Familia Torres has turned into a restaurant.
And so, I received a thorough but entertaining education in how to identify primary, secondary and tertiary aromas, and differentiate between the shades of red—from purple and cardinal to brick—and of whites too. And to differentiate flavors... I still take classes, and I always learn something new and come away surprise.
After all, “penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy.” (Alexander Fleming).
José María Toro
Founder of the Hedonista Blog