After The Wine: What Happens Next

Food & Drink

So much writing about wine, from critics to journalists to marketing content, is geared toward “pre-wine.” Anticipating the wine, that is, and persuading consumers to buy it and communicating the narrative of what it took to bring the wine to your table.

Lately, however, I’ve been wondering about the “post-wine.” What happens next, that is, after we’ve poured a glass or two and enjoyed our fill.

How about the post-wine experience, for you?

Do you make a note of it? Did you enjoy it, or hate it, so much that you’re compelled to share your experience on social media? Does it make you want to chase down other wines or projects by the same winemaker? Do you place an order with a retailer for more of the same? Or (and this would be the worst-case scenario for just about anyone on the production side) you’re indifferent to the experience of the wine, and have forgotten about it by the next morning?

All of those scenarios are possible, and most if not all of them have happened to each of us wine enthusiasts. Which is why I’m curious to tease out the details of notable post-wine scenarios I’ve experienced recently: with so much attention paid to getting wine into consumers’ glasses, perhaps we should also consider what happens next, after the wine is gone.

Once the wine has been experienced, what does the consumer do with its memory?

Here are the first two, of four, recent scenarios that shed a little bit of light on the lingering memory of wine.

Food and Wine Pairing: Recipe Tracing

A few weeks ago, during dinner at John J. Jeffries restaurant inside the Lancaster Arts Hotel, Chef Sean Cavanaugh served his kabocha sweet potato soup paired with the 2020 Cassel Vineyards Dry Vidal Blanc. Both food and wine were sourced locally, when “local” means southern central Pennsylvania, and the components of the pairing were so in sync with each other, and so frankly surprising, that it quieted everyone at the table. I enjoyed the wine on its own, and I enjoyed the soup on its own. But together, the duet soared.

Which makes the first post-wine observation significant for its long-later “finish.” I still think of that soup, weeks afterward. I trace the recipe and the scent of it through the farmers market — kabocha squash? coconut milk? was the spice saffron or turmeric or both? And what was it about the wine — the vidal blanc from that particular producer — that decided to be so friendly to those ingredients?

That pairing registered at the sensory level, and the post-wine memory of it triggers my curiosity. If there’s a marker of post-wine success, the trigger of lingering curiosity about it could be first in line.

Embedding the Experience Even Deeper

A neighbor in Atlanta, where we live, recently turned me on to a nearby boutique called Press Shop. “Visited today and immediately thought of you,” she texted me. “They have a curated selection of books, plants, wines and beautiful stationery from their small printing press.” She was spot on in her recommendation. I walked through the Press Shop’s door the next day and walked out with a “zz plant” (Zamioculcas zamiifolia, which now sits just inside our front door at home), a set of fun note cards, and a book, namely Whereabouts: A Novel, the newest offering by Jhumpa Lahiri, which she wrote in Italian (not her native language) and translated herself into English.

But no wine? Press Shop offers three of four of my favorite things, and the one I left without purchasing (wine) somehow nonetheless makes it into this article. Here’s why: earlier that day I had participated in a virtual tasting featuring red wines from the Alto Adige region of Italy, and there were two examples of the schiava grape, one from a producer called Kellerei Bozen and the other from Manincor, that I knew I wanted to revisit that evening. Now I also knew that I’d be revisiting them while reading Lahiri.

The post-wine memory of my initial tasting of these samples, while listening to their winemakers in Italy via Zoom, trumped my desire to pull a new bottle off Press Shop’s shelves. Instead I opted to surround a second tasting of the schiava samples with the atmosphere Lahiri creates from the language and context of Italy.

It is a second marker of post-wine success, that is, the desire to embed the experience of a wine even deeper into memory by weaving additional associations into the whole cloth.

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