I drew this cartoon a few years ago after a conversation with my wife about just how much the where and the when of wine affects our experience of it. It’s especially common, we decided, with people who have just returned from vacation with a bottle or two in their suitcases. It seemed almost supernaturally delicious there, but doesn’t have quite the same old magic when we pull the cork here.
Re-living that original experience would require conjuring up a whole world — the view of the mountains from the terrace, the sweetness of the boy waiter, the lovely sequence of courses, the pleasantness of the conversation and in general, just how good a time it was.
It’s a let-down when, expecting our suitcase wine to recover it all for us, we find it’s not up to the task. But it’s not the wine, per se, that’s letting us down. It’s a failure on our part to acknowledge the degree to which the pleasure we derive from wine is context-dependent.
Food, people and places all provide context, but perhaps the most powerful structures for framing and mediating our experience with wine are the intangible ones provided by imagination.