Tasting Memories

This weekend I had a chance to taste a wonderful 1982 ruby port. The first sip was an explosion of rich cherries followed by a long, smooth and complex finish.


As we talked at the table, it was several minutes before I took another taste. I didn’t have a watch, but it seemed as if ten or fifteen minutes had passed. All the time I was anticipating that next luscious sip, but when it came, the cherries were gone. The port was still exquisite, but I had waited too long.

Disappointed, I said, At first I tasted ripe cherries, but now they’re gone. Sometimes I wonder if I imagine these things, so I was surprised to get the response, Me too.

A well-trained French palate is almost never wrong.

I found even more interesting the explanation that followed:

At first it made me think of my parents’ house, and I thought that was just because the bottle came from the cellar there. But then you mentioned cherries, and I realized that was what I had tasted. We had a cherry tree in the garden. I don’t know what variety it was, but it had big plump cherries that turned almost black when they were ripe. That’s just what I tasted in the port, and probably why I thought of home.

The mind is an amazing thing. Smells often evoke memories. It seems taste can too.

When I listen to Intro by the xx, a song that hadn’t even been written when I was at University, it always makes me feel like late summer back at school. I picture pools of golden sunlight streaming in through the high dormitory windows. Why is that? Is it because the song sounds like something I listened to in school? I may never know.

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