When it comes to wine, you could say I was a late bloomer… a very late bloomer. But better late than never, I guess.
My first few tries of wine involved painfully dry white wines that seemingly stung my taste buds. I don’t know whether it was my taste buds that weren’t used to wine yet and I couldn’t appreciate it, but because I did not have any other points of reference, I thought all wines were like that. As a result, I generally stayed away and explored other libations.
It was around age 35 that I had my first sip of a wine that made my eyes light up and brought a smile to my face. It was an epiphany in a stemmed glass!
I wish I could remember the name of the wine to thank the winery, but it turned out to be something a little more middle-of-the-road in terms of sweet-dry balance. It was a nice, light, fruity wine with floral and citrus notes that delicately danced across the taste buds, like a gentle cooling breeze on a warm summer day. It was a pivotal moment that put me back on the path of exploring the wonderful world of wines.
In those first months, I had no idea what I was looking for. Initially, I picked up wines from brands I had heard of through word of mouth. It did not take long for me to alter that strategy upon realizing that I must have been the oddball among a collective of dry wine aficionados.
Then I started reading recommendations from reviewers and picking a few that appealed by their descriptions, suggesting notes of “black cherry” and “chocolate”. If I liked these flavours on their own, why not in my wine? They were quite good, but along the way I discovered that robust red wines made me very sleepy. As Archie Bunker once said in “All in the Family”, they were like “a blanket in a bottle”. It’s hard to become a wine connoisseur when you’re yawning at 30 second intervals and stealing the toothpicks from the cheese cubes to prop your eyelids up. Continue reading
On a recent visit to the mall, I noticed a little girl was carefully perusing the contents of the row of gum ball and toy vending machines, with the same intensity I demonstrated when I was shopping for new appliances. She was contorting herself around the machines, checking out all of the contents and trying to predict which items were to come out next.
I understood that this was a major purchase and she was looking for the best value for her hard earned allowance money. That was me 40+ years ago!
After much scrutiny and analysis, she pointed to a machine, put in her coin, turned the crank, opened the plastic bubble and voilà! Pure joy and a huge smile! I could only assume that she got what she was looking for as she was visibly delighted with her prize.
I was reminded of my own childhood and my borderline addiction to those machines. I remember my sock drawer was proudly filled with little gum-ball-machine toys I had collected from trips to the grocery store or the department store.
I don’t think my experience was all that unusual though. With those machines at eye level for a kid, it was so easy to beg parents and relatives for coins, to get something I “positively need, and promise I won’t ask for anything again”… until the next visit.
But what is it about those machines that ignites our curiosity? If common sense prevails, one would think that being able to hold, feel and inspect a product up close to make an informed decision would the more balanced way to go. However the separation of human and product by a plastic window seems to appeal to our sense of adventure.
Or is it because we have become the product of our own life-long Pavlovian experiment since a very young age: put in a coin, get a treat? Continue reading