I do not recommend wine tasting when you have a cold. However, like in matters, I did not heed my own advice, and went to a wine tasting in Assisi with a cold.
There were about 30 of us packed into a little basement, wine bottles stacked in rows on the wall, and the door propped open to let in air. On the table, meats and cheeses were spilling off of wooden platters, a basket of bread and a cup of small forks in between. Each person was given two wine glasses.
The night started off as I expected it to. Nila, our Italian wine-tasting guide, who knew more about wine than I know about members of my own family, poured us glasses of white wine. Under her direction, we swirled it, examined it against the light, watched it drip down the sides of the glass, and chewed it. Nila then examined the different aspects of the wine and the many flavors it had. However, my unsophisticated palate that finds chicken nuggets as delicious as Thanksgiving turkey could only deduce that the wine tasted like white wine. Then, Nila told us which meats and cheeses paired with the wine (This was my favorite part).
We continued this routine through a couple more wines, intermixing meats, cheeses, and bread with marmalade and honey between the sips. But then things got weird when Nila pulled out the jars of dirt.
The first jar of dirt, wasn’t just dirt, but a mixture of dirt, herbs, chocolate, and a cigarette. We were supposed to smell it and then figure out which glass of red wine matched it. We went through several more jars, sticking our noses in and taking a whiff. To me, each one smelled the same: like dirt. It might have been my cold, but I think I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference anyway.
Once we were done concluding that the dirt smelled like dirt (although probably and therefore highly superior to our American dirt), Nila explained which dirts produced which grapes. We ooed and awed, and then Nila pulled out the twigs. Apparently, grape vine twigs also have unique smells, and once again, I found no difference. Some twigs were smooth and straight, others bendy and curvy, and all smelled like a twig. However, there apparently was some difference, because Nila once again explained which grapes from which vines produced which wines.
The evening overall was wonderful. I had my fill of warm Italian bread drizzled with olive oil and salt, flavorful prosciutto and salami, and locally-made marmalade (and still went to dinner after).