When I think of wine in the abstract, I often get the same sort of feeling I used to have as a child on opening a box of chocolates: I contemplate the broad range of flavours laid out in front of me. I am not sure how common the ability is, but I find it easy to imagine the experience of trying these wines, with and without food. So in my mind’s palate, as it were, I can flip backwards and forwards through various taste sensations.
Here I am not at all contemplating subtle differences, complexity, cultural roots or anything of that sort of depth – just marvelling at the sheer diversity of aroma, flavour and mouthfeel. Some I am more familiar with than others, some I like to experience more often than others, but they are all good and my life would be the poorer if I lost any of them. The joy is not in trying all of the styles within any particular time frame, but it is knowing that they are available should I wish to indulge. And if you are feeling in the mood to indulge, the flavour experience is easily realised. It can be as simple as opening a bottle, possibly with a trip to a wine merchant first. OK, you might need a bit more patience if you are after more mature pleasures, but there is still a huge range of experiences available from younger wines.
So what about the subtle differences in wine you can experience in horizontal or vertical tastings? Well yes, they can be important too, and the tastings interesting. But they are not the primary source of the pleasure wine gives me. Most of the time I’d much prefer to contrast very different styles of wine as I move through an evening menu from aperitif to dessert and cheese. I prefer the hedonism of that approach to the more academic appreciation of subtle differences.