Immanuel Kant, in his epic ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, posited that we can never truly know of a thing in itself, we may only know of a thing -that which we can obtain through our own senses. That is to say, if we both, you and I looked at a glass of red wine, the way you actually see the colour red may be different to the way I see it, certainly if your eyesight is young and healthy whilst mine is old and fading it will be different. Just as, if your taste buds and olfactory receptors are sensitive to certain characters in the wine whilst mine are not, we will form a different assessment of the wine.
The first time I can recall hearing about ‘Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty’ I did not understand it at all; not uncommon to someone who has no grasp of quantum mechanics. Perhaps my fondest use of it was as the lawyer’s defense of his client, accused of murder, in the delightfully dark Coen brother’s movie, ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’. However, the older I become the more I can make of Werner Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty and his earlier ‘The Observer Effect’. These principles say that the more we focus on measuring one aspect of any phenomena or event, the more we have to understand that it will affect our measuring of the other aspects of that phenomena and sometimes, just the very way in which we look at something, will effect that which we actually see. If I attend a dinner party with live music and focus a great deal of my attention on the musical performance, my appreciation of the food and wine and even the company will almost certainly be somewhat diminished by it whilst, if the same wine were to be served on two separate occasions; I am almost certain to enjoy that same wine more at a friend’s wedding than at his wake.
I am often asked to name my favourite single wine, given the variety and variability of wine on offer it is impossible to name but one. I have also learned that, for me, it is impossible to consider the wine in isolation, when I recall the great wines I have enjoyed in my long career they are as much about being great moments as they are about being great wines. By way of example, when I recall my favourite wines, I also instantly recall as part of the memory, the person or people I was with, the place we were in or at, the occasion, the food, the waiters, the décor, in short, the whole experience. It is only after this initial burst or recognition that I can then begin to narrow my thoughts and focus purely on my recollections of the wine. Yet, upon reflection, I am obliged to concede that all of these other aspects served to heighten the experience and heighten my appreciation for the contents in my glass.
But then, by the same token, what is in the glass undoubtedly enhances the occasion as well. My life has been enriched by wine for the experiences and events it has helped create, the people it has brought into my life, the generosity of those people, the knowledge they have shared and the infectious passion they have brought with them. I recall a wine marketing conference many years ago where a speaker suggested we all collectively fumbled for words to describe what was in our glass, suggesting the right single word might be ‘delicious’. I’d add that if a single word might be used to describe what emanates from the glass that word, for me, would be joy. Often, it is not simply about what is in your glass it’s about everything else that comes together around it.