Learning To Love The Weird

Nov 24 2012 @ 5:12pm

In teaching a course called "The Geography of Wine", Jason Wilson encourages students to stretch their tastebuds:

But if there has been one stumbling block, it is when we leave the comforting aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers and herbs and enter into more challenging tasting territory: Minerality. Chalk. Tar. Tobacco. Animal. Farmyard. Petrol.

"Why would we want to drink a wine that tastes like these things?" my students want to know. It’s a reasonable and valid question.

Look, I tell them, if you’re happy and content with fruity, pleasurable red wines redolent of berries and cherries and plums or zippy, easy-to-drink whites with tangy citrus and orchards full of apples and pears… well, then that’s what you should drink without feeling any need to move beyond that. Wine should be, foremost, about pleasure — and pleasure is personal. There’s a reason that romantic comedies with happy endings, sunny, catchy pop music, mac n’ cheese, whipped cream vodka, and wearing Ugg boots with pajama pants remain popular.

But if we think more deeply about pleasure, we realize it isn’t always so straightforward or even comfortable. After all, why do so many of us love sad poems, disturbing horror films, or intense, subtitled psychological dramas.  … With the arts, we inherently understand that without the darker, more confounding elements, there can be no light. Wine is no different.