There is the poetry of it — "Another serious deal — dark purple fruit with a long finish; blend of grenache and tempranillo," writes Jessica Chiavara, wine buyer for the soon-to-be legendary LA market, Two Bits.
I love the casual intensity of "another serious deal" combined with what is to me exquisite nonsense — "grenache and tempranillo" — as I don't know what either of those words means.
But it's more than the poetry. Or, rather, poetry is more than sounding nice. When we describe the taste of a wine or a bourbon or a tequila, we summon elements far and wide — wood and its varieties, apples and berries and plums, dirt and brine and kelp, heat and spice and molasses and jam. Which is to say, in this endeavor of naming our taste, we discover the assemblage that is everything. A wine is its way of taking up wood and jam and earth and spice; a thing is its style of dj-ing the planet.
And I love the way this poetry is a claim to knowledge. It does not qualify itself with, "That's just my opinion." No, the wine taster is telling you how it is, not how it feels to her. The experience of the tongue becomes an objective knowledge.
A few months ago, I was in my favorite spirits shop — oh, I do love that they're called spirits — and this young woman who worked there was describing a line of scotches to me. She kept returning to marine terms — kelp and brine and seaweed — which I found delightfully surprising. As she spoke, she'd gesticulate just so, as if summoning the spirit from its glass, letting it draipse across her tongue so it could capture just the right words. It was so technical, yes, but so sensual, the erotics of body meeting world meeting language and it took every ounce of reserve in my body not to kiss her there and then.
And this is what I really love, this way of tasting and enjoying the world. It demands a certain generosity, a willingness to lend the world your body, and then to make your mouth dummy for the words this piece of the world summons......grenache and tempranillo....
It is an exquisite, sensual circuit of word, world, and body, this leaning into the flesh of things in order to know, in order to experience, in order to speak, in order to taste, in order to live.