Wine | Liquid Memories

My interest in wine developed long before I turned 21, as I’m sure is the case for many.  My first experiences took place at family meals.  The wine in question was never anything fancy, but it was a staple at mealtime just as much as was the bread or the cheese.  When the table was set a bottle of wine was always brought out.

Champagne was saved for birthdays and special occasions, and the hard liquor was most often served as an aperitif for guests, but wine was an everyday event.  I was occasionally offered a taste and secretly savored these small sips because I felt temporarily included in ritual that was reserved for the adults in my family.  I eventually took part in the ritual myself as I got older, but I think my enthusiasm for wine was planted in those early mealtime memories.

There’s a powerful connection between wine, food and memory.  Some of life’s most memorable moments and meals are enjoyed with a glass of wine.  Wine isn’t just a beverage, it has the ability to create connections and evoke emotion.

It’s an expression of culture and history that is both personal and communal.  The wine itself is an expression of its origins.  The term “terroir” refers to the way that the soil and microclimate of an area, along with the skill of a winemaker, imbues a wine with a unique taste and character, and gives it its spirit.  It’s an expression of nature and tradition that you can taste.  In a sense, wine is a liquid memory of the place it comes from.

The particular qualities that make a wine great can be somewhat elusive and most certainly very subjective.  No two people will always agree on what makes a wine good or awful, as each will have a different personal history that influences his or her experience with a wine .

What is it that makes a wine mediocre to one person and amazing to another? How can the same wine result in such different reactions?  A chacun son gout? (To each his own taste?)

I think that wine, like food or art, is a sensory experience that cannot be reduced to its specific components.  It is part physiology: our sense of smell and taste is a link to our emotions and memories, which explains what it is we like to drink and eat, and why.

It is also part cultural tradition: like the food of a culture, the wine of a culture acts as communal glue that bonds people together in a collective experience creating a sense of belonging and identity.

In the same way that being offered a sip of wine at the family dinner table made me feel a part of something larger, wine has an ability to express the relationship between a place, the people who live there and the traditions they share.  This communal experience can be as large as an entire country, or as small as your own family.  It is the intersection of taste, smell, memory and tradition that, for me, gives wine its enduring appeal.

Each wine also has its purpose and place.  Sometimes a simple wine fits the occasion better than a more complex and aged wine. On a hot summer day a nice crisp rosé is all I want, a big red wine wouldn’t be nearly as refreshing or satisfying. When someone asks me what my favorite kind of wine is, I reply “that depends, favorite for what?”

The thing is, I’m not a wine sob, I’m not going to judge a bottle of wine on its price tag nor am I going to be ashamed of liking an unpopular or inexpensive wine.  I drink wine for the same reason I eat food, because it tastes good and I like it.  I don’t think anyone should be intimidated by wine.  Learn to trust your palate and your desires; you know what you like.  I don’t take wine too seriously.  Like good food, wine is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated.

Are you a wine drinker?  What are some of your favorite wine related memories?


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  1. says

    the photography is absolutely wonderful. I think it’s hard to capture liquid well, but you have done so beautifully! The light is perfect.

    • says

      Great post and beautiful snaps. We were never able to partake in any form of alcohol growing up. However, when I went over seas to stay with a friend’s family the summer after my senior year in high school, their family served us wine with dinner. I still remember how special it felt to be included for that first time. You are so right about how wine can be different for everyone. I’m still no expert, but I certainly love to pop a bottle with a meal and share with friends.

  2. says

    I’m not a drinker but just wanted to say your photos looks dreamy. I find taking photos of liquids so hard but you make it look so easy! Beautiful as usual!

  3. says

    Such gorgeous photos.
    We went through a phase where we had wine every night with dinner, then we slowly grew out of that. I think it is high time to enjoy a glass of wine again! I miss it!

  4. says

    What a beautiful post. I go through phases where I am into white and then into red for a while. Somedays just in the mood for bubbly or perhaps a glass of rose. Like food, wine is there for our ever changing whims. Gorgeous photos, as always.

  5. says

    I am not a wine drinker, but I have always wanted to be! I heard that wine drinkers, on average, are more educated and smarter (IQ wise) then beer drinkers. Makes perfect sense to me! :)

  6. says

    Robert Louis Stevenson said: “Wine is bottled poetry.” Of course every connoisseur of fine food knows this, but you have stated it so, dare I say it, poetically! GREG

  7. says

    Talking about great phtography? This is it. I love your photos. Very very good. I don’t drink but this really really looks wonderful. Great job Sylvie.

    Have a great weekend.

  8. says

    What a beautiful post, both visually and literally! I adore wine, it does not matter, red or white, variety or country of origin. I think that to me, what matters more, aside from quality, is time and place. And company. Those color my experiences with wine just as much. And I especially enjoy when I am able to get the story behind the wine from the winemakers themselves – it becomes so much more meaningful!

    • says

      I agree with you completely, it does make the experience more meaningful when you have a story to go with it, you feel more connected to the end result.

  9. says

    Beautiful photographs!!! I love wine…LOVE it. The whole experience of drinking wine – the smell, the taste, the social or unsocial atmosphere. Charlottesville is surrounded by vineyards and it is one of the things I love most about living where I do.

  10. says

    I am no expert with wine, but do love my share once in a while. Sylive, your photographs are so amazing that I have been scrolling up and down for the past hour!

  11. says

    This is so luscious and romantic. Absolutely stunning photos and I couldn’t agree with you more about wine. Wine is divine in my book. It’s like the frame around a fantastic oil painting…it just sets off the beautiful moments that life has to offer.

  12. says

    Oh my goodness… These photos are absolutely stunning! I love them!

    I’m not a real big wine drinker… I like a glass of white wine (esp sparkling white wine) from time to time, but I have to admit that I’m really more of a cocktail drinker. :)

  13. says

    Awesome pictures! Great post! I am totally with you on your feeling and understanding. I grew up with wine at the dinner table each night. Everyone had a glass. I feel like i went from milk to wine. Being from Europe i feel wine was a must at dinner. You did miss something though, glass of red wine is good for you, for all kinds of health reasons.

    • says

      You are absolutely right. We should all be enjoying a nightly glass of wine, (and dark chocolate) to make sure we’ve had our antioxidants for the day!

  14. says

    Beautiful post. I loved the way you described wine as a liquid memory of the place it came from.

    I was a late bloomer when it comes to wine (or any other alcohol) drinking but some of my best wine memories came from when my (now) husband and I started dating. He would always have the same nice bottle of Sancerre waiting for me when we saw each other on Fridays. I’ll never forget that. It also sparked my love for all French wines.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Sylvie. :-)

  15. says

    I love the pictures of the corks together! I like wine too though can’t say I know much except that this is the only spirit I enjoy:). The last picture is perfect. It embodies the moods associated with the drink!

  16. says

    I don’t drink either but I can say the pictures are stunning!! The emotions are similar to I have with tea, and can totally understand what you mean :) And loving your write ups apart from the pictures Sylvie, great going.

    P.S. – U got to give me some tips on avoiding reflections in shooting liquids!

  17. says

    I drink wine for the same reasons you do…because it tastes good and I like it. A single glass has the ability to relax me in an awkward social situation or smooth out some of the wrinkles of a rough day. Memories? A wine-tasting in university, held by a local British Columbia winery (the son was in my dorm), it was my first real “tasting” and I finally understood what the heck my dad was doing at restaurants when he swirled his glass! It used to embarrass me, but no longer.

  18. says

    Lovely post Sylvie and beautiful photos. I have an interest in wine too, but not in a snobby label/price tag driven way. I find wine can really bring out the wonderful flavours in a dish when paired well. It’s also a wonderful thing to enjoy on a warm summers day (with a glass of white or rose) or a cold winters night with a glass of red or even mulled wine. And your right,favourites for wine do depend on the food they are being paired with or even mood, however, if I had to pick one it would have to be champagne. It never fails to make me smile when I hear the pop of a champagne cork and see it’s gorgeous bubbly liquid poured into a champagne glass.

  19. says

    I’m not much of a wine person…well, not a wine person at all. I do like more dry champagnes for special occasions, and use a decent amount of Riesling in my cooking (it works so well with spicy food…). But I think that my love and the effort I put into tea is similar to that that some people spend on wine – so I understand the passion and pleasure.

  20. says

    Sylvie, this is such an important post about wine. I do not drink it but I love the flavor in sweet & savory food. For people to see beyond the price and label is important. As you say – it is about the whole experience. xo

  21. says

    I’m not a huge drinker, but I think wine makes a very good accompaniment to certain meals. I think my favorite memory is learning to appreciate wine with food, the very first time that I went to France.

  22. says

    Sylvie, you bring such an elegance to your photography I just adore them! Natural light? I only started truly appreciating wine this past year as a result of a friends’ influence as well as my first trip to Italy. I am by no means a wine expert, but I know what I like and at the end of a long day something smooth and a tad bit fruity (depending on what I’m eating of course) can surely set the pace of your evening.

  23. says

    I couldn’t agree with you more that wine taste is extremely subjective. Unfortunately it seems in recent years I have fallen out of friendship with wine, but this year I have planned to get back together with wine and spirits which will definitely be fun. 😉 And, just wanted to tell you, I am absolutely loving your photos in this post, stunning!

  24. says

    I love your top photo through the glass. I love that you barely notice the glass is there though. As for wine, I love the idea of it and when winos I know describe to me all the notes they taste in just one sip of a great wine. Unfortunately, I simply don’t like the taste even though my dad even fed me drops on a chopstick as a little girl! The few I do like have to be sweet (but not overly syrupy). I hear that I’d probably enjoy ice wines.

  25. says

    Lovely photographs. Growing up back home my family never had wine with our meals. It was something affluent families do. But when I moved here to California and realized good wine doesn’t have to be expensive I have always enjoyed a glass of cabernet or pinot with my dinner. Sweet moscato with prosciutto and cantaloupe is a favorite. Thank you for sharing your lovely post!

  26. says

    Your photographs are beautiful, your food, mouth-watering, and your words, inspiring.
    I absolutely love your blog– in fact, it inspired me to create my own. So thank you!

    Keep the oven warm and the wine flowing!

  27. says

    Beautiful post! My husband and I enjoy wine tastings, but we are far from experts. We love going to Whole Foods’ monthly wine tasting to try new types of wine we would not have selected on our own.

  28. says

    great post Sylvie and beautiful pics as always! i tend to gravitate towards anything bubbly – doesn’t have to be expensive or even from a wine ‘shop’. i’ve purchased some great prosecco for less than $10 – which means i can drink more!

  29. says

    Salut Sylvie- I had to look dreamily one more time at your stunning photos. Then I had to giggle with what Deb said; I also really like an inexpensive Prosecco. My favorite wine recently has been the wine a friend from Sicily makes. It’s spicy, strong flavored, and distinctive flavor is irresistible. Happy Valentine’s Day xx

  30. says

    That’s truly a beautiful ode to wine Sylvie !
    I specially agree with you, food and wine should not be taken too seriously, but simply enjoyed in good company 😉

  31. says

    Your words and images are sheer poetry! My husband and I enjoy wine with dinner nearly every night. I just started a wine class at UCI to develop my nose more and learn more about wines outside of California. But I hope that doesn’t make me a wine snob 😉

  32. says

    Stunning photos (as always) and a wonderful post. As you may imagine, wine plays an important role in our lives. You are absolutely correct that it isn’t the price that is important, it is the flavor and care. We believe that educating our children about wine is important too, at the tender age of 7 the youngest can already tell if a wine is corked. The 11 year old won’t go near poor wine (yes, I’m intentionally creating snobs that won’t drink dreck, I have motives). We enjoy a good Valpolicella with a low price point with many meals. Of course, a fabulous Brunello is always welcome and at the moment I’m into Shiraz.

  33. says

    Beautiful sentiments and photos. I couldn’t have put it better, myself. It’s so true — don’t be a snob about wine. Price and ratings can help guide you, but they shouldn’t be the only determining factors. I mean, one of the first wines I tried and loved was Mateus Rose, of all things. I probably wouldn’t drink it now. But when a waitress in a little French bistro suggested my best friend and I try a glass, we couldn’t resist. I’m sure she knew we were not quite 21 then, but being French, she knew how wine could transform a meal. To this day, I still remember that meal and sipping that wine. It may have been a cheap wine, but the memory is priceless.

  34. says

    I love the photo of the wine in the glass… lovely. I’m glad to find your beautiful blog. My son’s first wine memory was when he was 9 months old….we were in Chateauneuf du Pape on a tour of Beaucastle….. my husband dunked our son’s binky in the wine (much to the horror of the other Americans present) …. “It’s never to early to start educating his palate” He claimed

  35. says

    Sylvie: This is such a well written piece – it’s poetic. Your images are lovely and pristine and flow smoothly with your writing. I like your answer when asked what your favorite wine is.

    I do enjoy wine and it doesn’t matter the price tag or label…but I am intimidated to write about it. I’m comfortable talking about it with company I’m sharing it with…but feel inadequate to wine-speak in writing.

    I’m going to pour myself a glass of Pinot now. Loved this post…thank you for sharing it.

  36. says

    When my husband and I had just begun to date, we went on a two-week trip to the South of France. After spending the afternoon at Chateauneuf-du-Pape, we skipped over to Gigondas and had a picnic of foie gras, caramelized onions, cheese and a bottle of red wine. Perhaps it was the warm weather, maybe it was the fact that our view overlooked the entire valley… maybe it was the best “date” I had ever been on, but man – that was the BEST bottle of wine I’ve ever had in my life.

    Generally speaking, at home, I like different wines for different occasions. On a hot, dry day, I love a glass of sancerre. To go with my lamb, a nice cab franc. Neither have to be expensive. :-)

    Gorgeous photos!


  37. says

    Sylvie these pictures are GORGEOUS!! I wish my hubby was a wine drinker……I would enjoy a glass/bottle a little more often if I didn’t have to drink alone.

  38. says

    senses, culture, memory, locale, taste… wine has so much in it. The photographs are so crisp, warm, real.
    My favorite wine memory? something simple we used to make at family gatherings when I was young: pesche al vino: peaches soaked in white wine…everyone would partake in that and enjoy them, from kids to adults. It was a true convivial cross-generational experience.

  39. says

    I discovered my love for wine in college — back then it was all about the Yellowtail — it was cheap but then I realized it tasted pretty bad too…

    So I purchased the CIA book on learning more about wines, since then I’ve tried all the different varietals and I’ve finally settled on Cabernet Sauvignon — Ghost Valley Pines is my favorite! It has great depth with earthy notes and at a good price of around $15/bottle.

    p.s. your photography always makes me smile, you are wonderful :)

  40. says

    I love all wines. Being from Indiana, means that you have to drink some sweet wines to support the local guys. But, they are importing grapes and juice from California so they offer dry as well now. I think what is even better than wine is the people you are drinking the wine with!

    With that being said, going to V. Sattui with your best friends can be an amazing wine experience.

  41. says

    My other hobby is wine. Like you, I grew up with it – dad made it every year. I admit, I can be a bit of a wine snob, but I’ll try it all and drink what I like regardless of pedigree or price.

  42. Traci says

    My husband and I have been to and held many wine tastings over the years. I lean toward lighter sweet wines. My favorite wine memory was attending a German wine tasting with my husband. This was the first time I actually enjoyed red wine.

    I so enjoyed the beautiful photography and story.

  43. says

    I was not much into wine, most vodka or coktails stuff! In the past 1 year i started enjoying it a lot and even now I don’t know what is my fav and like you mentioned it depends a lot on season .. food … and i guess mood too :)