How to Make Bad Stuff Better

Today started off unremarkably and slowly got worse. I ran out of clean socks and was considering putting on dirty ones when I found a used airplane amenity pack in a suitcase, it contained a pair of ‘airline socks’. They make poor replacements. The day meandered onward and I began to feel a general anxiety toward it. A sort of nervous feeling as if I was about to speak in front of a large crowd. Maybe that’s what Shakespeare meant when he said “All the world’s a stage”.  Everything began to seem insurmountable and I longed for bed or a bar counter.

The boss is away at the moment and I have been entrusted with the BIG bunch of keys. The BIG bunch has every key to every door in the restaurant. I got one of those raised-eyebrows-now-don’t-lose-these looks when they were handed over. This is a serious bunch of keys. I am to take these keys as seriously as my job. And today I couldn’t find them.

The general malaise turned into full-blown, gut-wrenching, sweat-pouring stress. After about 45min of frantic searching they turned up in some ‘safe’ place the night manager had put them but neglected to tell me.

As the sweaty palms dried and the butterflies in my stomach dropped dead, I realised the dread and anxiety I had been feeling toward the whole of creation had disappeared. The day looked brighter, my work load more manageable and the thought of that beautiful Chenin waiting at home made me smile. The thought of losing the BIG bunch of keys juxtaposed with what had felt like a bad day made everything better.

This episode reminded me think of how we drink and think about our wines. Last night I attended the New World Wine Agencies trade tasting. The one winery that stood out for me, although the majority of wines presented were of high quality, was Beaumont Wines. I am already a big fan of their Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2008 an elegant Chenin with superb oak integration and really scrumptious limey freshness. What made the wines taste better, I believe, was drinking it with the family who makes it. So many farms profess to be ‘family owned’ and they might well be, but of those I have visited the family is never seen.

The Beamont’s obvious enjoyment of what they do unquestionably made their wines taste better last night. Context plays a huge role in how we taste our wines. I was reading a blog post by Jamie Goode on tasting good wines blind. He made reference to study in which the same average wine was labelled differently and given to the same tasters twice, a week apart. The first time it was labelled ‘Vin de Table’ and the second ‘Grand Cru’. The same wine was perceived better if it had the Grand Cru label and a less complex wine if it was wearing the Vin de Table label. The experiment was performed by Frederic Brochet who called this phenomenon “perceived expectations”.

My experience of enjoying the Beaumont Wines more because of who I was drinking with obviously differs from Brochet’s experiment, but I think the underlying idea of us perceiving wine differently within certain contexts is the same. I’ll be able to tell tonight when I open another bottle of the Marguerite and try to drink it depressed. My guess is the wine might not taste the same as last night, but it will definitely cheer me up.


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