Mindful Drinking

IMG_1426The commercial asks, “Ever want to get away?”  Right now, I would promptly answer, “more than anything!”

Well, fortunately for me I have my imaginary canary yellow Fiat 500 convertible. So until I finish writing this blog post (or I finish the this wonderful bottle of wine), I’m not here. I’m in Montefalco Italy and I’m drinking 8 year old Sagrantino wine.  So Windar take me away from here!

Lets talk about Montefalco first.  Located in central Italy’s province of Perugia Umbria, the town sits on an outcrop above the floodplain of the Clitunno river.  About the only thing the town has got going for it is several churches, the most notable of which is San Francesco, with it’s frescos showing the life of St. Francis. That, and the wine Montefalco Sagrantino.

The Sagrantino is a small production grape grown in central Italy, and is one of the most tannic varieties in the world.  The wine it produces is inky purple and has a black heart, just like me.  The bouquet is brooding, not unlike this mood I’m in, and I’m loving this wine because it easing my level of aggravation. God bless it’s dark heart and brooding nose.  Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that it has an alcohol level of better than 14.5%.

The Sagrantino was primarily a dessert wine made in the “passito” style, where the grape is dried like a Recioto di Valpolicella. Starting in 1992, winemakers started making the dry tasty style that I’m enjoying and in 1979 the area was granted a DOCG.

The wine is aged for 30 months, at least 12 of those in oak barrels.  This wine can be stored for long durations and enjoyed over years.

Tenvta Castelbuono is the latest project of the Lunelli family, who for 3 generations has been at the helm of Ferrari sparking wines. The winery was designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro and is called “Carapace La Tartaruga” or “turtle.” It’s a curved, copper, shell-shaped structure with wall to ceiling glass walls and a tasting room set over sunken cellars. It’s less a workplace and more a work of art.   carapace-1ok

This would be a great wine to use to introduce mindful drinking.

I’m about as far away from “New Age” anything as a person can get, however I started studying “mindfulness” as a way to combat my overstressed work life. Mindfulness, in its simplest form, means being “present” in the moment, intentionally and non-judgmentally. This for me means if I make up my mind to THINK about where I was in just that minute, I could have a 60 second nirvana.

I then started to apply this concept to my wine drinking.  I was getting so wrapped up in the wine junk of noting the color, smell, texture, taste and writing it all down and taking pictures that one day I asked myself if I actually tasted the wine I just drank?

I saw this in others too.  I noticed that when I was with friends it didn’t really matter to them if the wine that landed in front of them was a Cab or a Malbec, they drank it! While keeping up the dialog about the day’s drama, workplace horrors, domestic battles, and hashing over sports victories or defeats, the question of why I spend money and not pay attention to what I bought kept prodding my mind.

I decided to employ mindful drinking habits. Like this wine for example.  I deliberately looked for a wine made from 100% Sagrantino grape, because that’s what I wanted to drink.

Next, I read the label.  And try this yourself, look at the dates on the label.  Unless you are in a much higher income bracket most of what you are drinking is 2012 to 2013.  The Montefalco is 2007, which explains its price tag $40. I also looked for notes on the label stories about the vineyard or winemaker.  Why?  It sets a context for the wine.  Every wine has a story to tell, and it’s worth listening, otherwise why are you drinking it?

Color: is it clear or cloudy, dark or light, pink, purple or many of the overworked red hues. What’s this tell you? Do you like the color or not? How does it smell? How does that make you feel, what emotions do you experience? Are you happy or repulsed? Cheese or flowers? For me its either I like it or I don’t. The nose needs to draw me in or I start thinking I wasted my money.

What do you taste?  Again, I don’t get all that strawberries, lemon or leather stuff, as normally I don’t lick my jacket. But good and bad I get.  Wonderful is what I’m hoping for. I always try to drink the wine with a meal, or at very least cheese and crackers and some fruit.  The two questions I can always answer is how does this make me feel, and what did this wine teach me.

How’s the texture?  Dry or Sweet? Silky or smooth or bumpy?  Big taste, or elegant?  Did the flavor last in your mouth or disappear like an email when you hit enter?

While I’m having my first glass I try not to be judgemental.  Hey no one cares about my score.  But I’m thinking did I like it.  Would I buy it again, was it worth the price I paid?  I’ll drill down to the details in my second glass and normally I try to limit my drinking to two glasses, because I want to taste the wine tomorrow to see how it changed. Yeah, I do savor and think about every sip.  No I don’t get intoxicated (often) following these rules and it takes most of the night to drink my two glasses. Best of all, when I’m done I know the wine intimately, what I want to try next time, and why.

So, let me get back to this delightful dark and brooding wine, soothe my savage soul, and while I do that why don’t you kick back and do some mindful drinking yourself.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”  Oh, and drinking wine helps too!

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