A lesson in good taste… and how to smell well
4 minute read
It’s true that you can only truly appreciate something once it’s gone.
I’ve had a cold recently and it obviously affects one’s ability to taste, but this time I really noticed it. I missed not being able to taste stuff, stuff that you’d normally take for granted. Questions like, “Is this wine corked?” or ‘Daddy, can you smell my stinky feet?” made me realise just how much I use my olfactory senses and how I miss them when they’re not there.
So, now that the cold has faded and the first Summer days have brought the garden out in bloom, I’m smelling and tasting more than I ever did. I mean, I always did it a lot before, but even more so now. And it made me realise that I’ve always been a particularly ‘smelly’ sommelier (not like that).
Back in the day as a trainee sommelier, grafting my way through Michelin-starred restaurants, I was told by my then Head Sommelier that I should get out more. Not because I was living a sheltered life or because I was cramping his style (well maybe), but it was more about tasting a greater variety. It was a real epiphany moment and the advice has stuck with me ever since.
He gave me an orange and told me that I should do the following:
- Stop just eating stuff and actually taste the food you’re eating. This will help you remember and appreciate it more.
- Start to smell and taste more things. Actually stop and make a point of it.
- Never order or eat the same thing over again. Always try something new.
- Question what it is that you’re tasting. Ask yourself, “Is this an orange?” and questions like, “Is it really orangey?’ “Is it a good or a bad orange?” “What sort of orange does it taste like?”
All this over an orange, huh? But stay with me. The lesson is: be critical over whatever it is you are tasting, smelling or eating. This will make whatever it is that you are eating or drinking far more memorable.
So, now stuff just sticks in my head, like a cheesy pop song or a favourite perfume. And, just like with everything else, the more you do it, the better you become.
I always think that wine is a bit like driving. We can all do it, yet we all have our own abilities and strengths. Given the right training and the right support, maybe we can all drive a Formula 1 car? Not everybody can be a Lewis Hamilton or a Michael Schumacher, but we all have skills to some degree and it’s the same with wine.
We all have the ability to be tasters. Fundamentally, wine is all about remembering stuff and as we’re only as good as the flavour catalogue and memories in our heads, we just need to get out there and taste more.
With a greater exposure to taste and a wider tasting encyclopedia pretty much anyone can be a mini sommelier. So, if you taste lots of stuff and remember it then you too can be a taster – just like me!
If that’s the case, then I’d recommend following the same 4 rules that I was told.
That means, the next time you see horse sh*t in the street, you should go and smell it (just as I did).
That means, the next time you see horse sh*t in the street, you should go and smell it (just as I did). Go to the garden centre and smell the flowers, go to the local department store and smell the perfumes and then find out what the dominant flavours are in each. Taste as much as you can, smell as much as you can, remember as much as you can.
At this time of year there’s so many new things to taste and smell. Think of all the different and quirky fruit and vegetables stocked in the supermarkets. I urge you to pick them up, study them, smell them and then then taste them (once you’ve paid, of course). Currently, I’m really into Samphire. Yes, that weird green stalky leaf thing that’s found on the fish counter. You can use it as you would with asparagus. Try it, it’s amazing! And it pairs brilliantly with fish cooked al fresco on the grill and a crisp glass of my Ohsomm Kiwi Sauvignon.
So, with my revived olfactory senses and a fully refreshed tasteology catalogue in my head, I’m now going to have fun this summer with my Ohsomm cellar. Holidays, beaches, barbecues, picnics and parks will all be featuring heavily as there’s a perfect wine to match every moment.
Now that I’m back in the game and I’m tasting, smelling and remembering as much as I possibly can, it’s back to work. So, if you see a guy in the streets, standing over a steaming pile of horse sh*t, just about to lower his nose in for a sniff, why don’t you come over and join me? You might learn something? Hahaha!