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3 Things Your Dog Can Teach You About Wine Appreciation

I'm a dog guy.

While I don't hate cats, I don't love cats, either. Mostly, I get along best with the cats that think they're dogs anyway. Since this post is going to be about my schooling of wine appreciation literally going to the dogs, my apologies in advance to those who are cat lovers. I've never been taught anything about wine appreciation from a cat (more on learning wine stuff from domesticated house pets in a minute) - though they have taught me the art of totally ignoring people.

Since Mrs. Dudette has most of the newborn baby dudette feeding responsibilities, Dude here has been given primary Dog Duty at the House of Dude. I'm the one who now has to feed and walk my wife's Weimaraner, Samson (see pic above). (Actually, to be fair, after 7+ years together old Sammy is just as much my dog now as he is hers).

Sammy has been a great sport throughout the whole adjusting-to-the-baby thing, and he is very, very sweet with the baby. Having to walk the dog more often than I used to has made me take more notice of Sam's behaviors - such as licking the baby, sniffing around, licking himself, sniffing the baby, licking himself, and licking himself (did I mention licking himself?).

By observing Sam, I've actually learned a bit about wine appreciation. And no, it doesn't involve drinking so much that you want to sniff someone's butt, unless that's your thing (licking yourself is also optional). Though it does apparently involve startling segues from dog licking to wine tasting... maybe I should have thought about that one a bit more...

Anyway, straight from the home office in suburban eastern-PA, here are 3 Things that Your Dog Can Teach You About Wine Appreciation...

  1. Short, concentrated sniffs work best. Dogs have some of the best senses of smell around - and Weimaraners have one of the best noses in the doggie business. When my dog smells something, he doesn't take a long, drawn-out, overly-dramatic sniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiffffff. He takes a burst of short, concentrated sniffs. Sniff... sniff-sniff... sniff-sniff-sniff-sniiiiiifff.

    Turns out there is a lot of merit in that approach if you really want to smell something thoroughly - and in the case of wine, smelling is where you will get about 80% of your enjoyment and appreciation. Shorter sniffs help to focus your olfactory senses, and may also help to keep your sense of smell from fatiguing too quickly. The sharper your sense of smell, the more you can pinpoint what aspects you like (or don't like) about the wine that your tasting.

    In the case of wine, smelling is where you will get about 80% of your enjoyment and appreciation for your glass of vino.

  2. Focus, focus, focus. Ever try to move a dog from a spot when he is smelling it during a walk? If not, I encourage you to do this as a test of your own upper limits of frustration. My dog will frequently stop in his tracks, plant his nose into a smell, and lock all four powerful legs so tightly that it would take a tow truck, steel cables, and an act of Congress to move him from whatever he is sniffing at that moment.

    When a dog is really smelling something, nothing can break his concentration. At that point, there is no walk, there is no leash, there is no master - there is only the smell. If you want to experience everything that a wine has to offer, you'd do well to imitate the concentration that the average dog gives to any random oder in which s/he gets interested. With that kind of focus, you'd be on your way to wine-tasting pro status in no time.

  3. Don't rush it. Once my dog stops smelling something and decides to start eating it, he is an shining example of what not to do when enjoying a wine (or any food or drink, for that matter). My dog will inhale food that he really likes. He will eat it so quickly, you would think there was a pack of angry, hungry velociraptors waiting 7 inches away from him ready to steal his morsels should he take more than 14 nanoseconds to eat them. The tastier the treat, the less he chews (or breathes) before swallowing.

    Which is exactly what you don't want to do when enjoying a wine. Take your time. Savor it. That glass isn't going anywhere, man. Relaaaax. See, isn't that nice? Sniff. Swirl. Focus. And enjoy.

    Now, go walk that dog!


(images: 1WineDude.com, nytimes.com, galacticpudding, javelinaleapwinery.com)


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree on the short sniffs point. Dogs have their olfactory epithelium much closer to their nostrils, ours is up between our eyes and you need a fuller inhale to get the aromatic compounds to the receptors. This is one of just a few fundamental reasons for the difference in olfactory acuity between us and other species.

You do have a point about habituation or fatigability of sensory receptors.

I prefer to start at a distance and move in closer: I first sniff with the rim of the glass at my chin, then at my nose (but without the nose in the glass and finally with the nose all the way in - taking breaks in between, of course: http://www.redwinebuzz.com/sniff-lg.PNG

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that your other points are very, very valid in my book: focus and taking it slow.

When I assess a wine, I am often reminded of those old Warner Brothers cartoons where the dog smells something and a thought bubble appears over his head. A sequence of images follows as the dog is trying to identify the scent.

Anonymous said...

When we were in Arizona last fall, we met Vinny the Winery Dog, at Javelina Leap. He's a great dog.

We went to Alhambra (I may have that name wrong) winery, where they had 2 or 3 German Shepherds that were beautiful, and a book of winery dogs that is, sadly, out of print or I'd have it.

This all has very little to do with your post, of course, except that I love those winery dogs.

Anonymous said...

When my dog Rommel finds an odor,he puts his nose down, tilts his head slightly to one side, sniffs,and darts his tongue in and out like a lizard, doing it ever so gently,as if it were a delicate flower. So when I read your post,it really hit home. It was a good reminder about focus, and the pleasure to be had. So now I will copy my dog, except for the tongue part.

Joe Roberts said...

Thanks, Ramblin'! GREAT name for a dog, btw!

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