By Kenneth Friedenreich

Throughout her half-century-spanning career, MFK Fisher’s 27 books on food, drink, and conviviality earned her prime position among American authors. Her continued lament describes “taste blindness.”

Taste blindness is no neurologic or genetic malfunction. Rather, it’s a willful choice to ignore the experience of taste pleasure at meals. Because pleasure elicits guilt and woeful spasms of conscience, we fake denial, but don’t shake the blindness.

Fisher recounts farm-to-table food before American cooking and dining was consigned by modernity to the root cellar and the Mason jar. Some of Fisher’s best writing recalls the rush to harvest, cook, and store the bounty for use over the winter. The remedies for taste blindness advocate immediate connection between the farm, the kitchen and the table.

We often forget that tasting wine is not speed dating. So, let’s slow down and examine the following aspects that can help you better navigate the sometimes-intimidating world of wine and better treat your own taste blindness.

  1. Numbers worth remembering: Vintage refers to the harvest year, not the year the wine was released.
  2. More numbers to remember: Alcohol by volume and cost per bottle. The former helps set the latter, along with a component for preserving it.
  3. Numbers to avoid: wine ratings. While they give a good guideline, it all comes down to your own preferences.
  4. Learn some geography: It’s likely you’ll discover numerous possibilities in the same neighborhood, expanding your world of wine and ensuring additional enjoyment.
  5. Hyper-local wine: “Estate” wine comes from a winery’s surrounding vines, reflecting the qualities of a specific slice of planet Earth. If “block” is mentioned on a label, estate, or otherwise, that slice has been further divided, possibly showing a distinction in taste.
  6. Wines weigh differently: Rosés are usually light-bodied, as are rieslings and sauvignon blanc. I class pinot noir as medium, but some are lighter, comparable to Beaujolais or gamay. Wines of middle heft include merlot and more than a few chardonnays. Cabernet sauvignon and like-minded blends will be heavier-bodied. Sangivese vary from light-middle weight but get heavier in blends that include teraldigo or merlot. What do you prefer?
  7. The right kind of sweet: It’s okay to prefer wine that stimulates our sweet receptors. Great ones exist and pair delightfully well with some of our favorite foods.
  8. Wines reveal more as they meet the greater environment: Your physical self is a big part of this environment. So, when a wine really pleases, consider the context of the moment, your mood, and other responses to what happens around you. It’s an experience lived and remembered.
  9. No dumb questions: If you’re uncertain of a wine term, ask. The only dumb question is held in silence out of fear someone nearly as clueless on the same point, hands up a shovel of useless dirt. Remember, you’re shopping for wine, not fertilizing the vineyard. You may drink all wines from the 1,400 varietals out there, but there’s no need to cram. Immediacy and extended pleasure helps all of us see better. Ask an expert at one of the local wine shops like Sundance Wine Cellars or the Broadway Wine Merchants. They can tell you what you want to know and help point you in the right direction.
  10. Wine is like love: If you hold on too long, it will disappoint you like encountering your prom date at your 50th high school reunion. Maturity differs from time-keeping. Drink the good wine today.

Kenneth Friedenreich’s Oregon Wine Country Stories: Decoding the Grape was published in 2018 by Arcadia/History Press.