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Meditation and Wine Tasting

Pause, breathe, taste. Those are the three words that are key to experiencing a more enriching wine tasting, according to Martine Bounet, an accredited Ecole du Vin tutor and yoga instructor from Bordeaux.

I'm at Martine's workshop in New York on meditation and yoga techniques to improve wine tasting. On the white-clothed tables in front of us are three wine glasses, a satin eye mask, a cup for spitting, a small plate, a booklet about Bordeaux wines, a pencil, and a small box of chocolates. Nice touch. I'd brought my own small notebook to write down notes from my experience.

Martine begins with an explanation of the "pause, breathe, taste" technique and how each step is essential for a complete wine tasting experience. We're instructed to put on our blindfolds, hands on our laps, feet flat on the floor. She tells us to breathe, inflating our abdomens and slowly letting the air rise to our chest before exhaling slowly.

Then she starts with our ears, telling us to conjure up a pleasant aural memory. What sound comes to mind? What does it sound like? I think of a road trip I took with my father a few years ago to Canada. My favorite song was playing. She asks us to touch our ears. What do they feel like?

Next, we move onto our eyes, which are still covered. Martine asks us to visualize some images: a sunflower, a field of poppies.

Slowly, we transition to the nose. She asks us to touch it. What does it feel like? What shape is it? How does it sit on our face? She asks us to imagine different smells, like cinnamon.

Finally, we end with the mouth. We're asked to touch our lips. What did we have for breakfast that morning? What did it taste like? Was it salty? Sweet?

After our visualizations are complete, we take our blindfolds off but continue to keep our eyes closed. Martine instructs us to massage our own faces for a couple of minutes. We finally open our eyes, slowly, and work on our breathing again. We use our fingers to lightly press on alternate nostrils and breathe in and out for several passes.

I feel refreshed, relaxed.

We're then asked to put our blindfolds back on. It's time for wine! We continue our rhythmic breathing as servers circle the room, pouring our first wine. They also help us pick up our glasses so we're not blindly reaching for them. The first wine is a sparkler. Martine tells us to lift the glass to our ears and listen for the bubbles. She describes the flavors we're about to experience and the color of the wine as we sniff our glasses. Then we lift our blindfolds, open our eyes, and take our first sip. My sense of taste is heightened by the meditation, and I can taste the flavors Martine described.

Next, we do the same thing with a Bordeaux red. Martine asks us to imagine how the tannins will feel on our gums, the deep plum color of the wine, and the flavors we're about to experience, before we finally take a sip.

Finally, we try a white Bordeaux using the same process. The wine is sweeter than the red and tastes just as Martine described it.

This whole experience is new to me, and the meditation really helped me focus on tasting. The use of the blindfold blocked out any distractions, and having the wines described first encouraged me to visualize what I was about to experience, heightening the flavors.

This is something you can try at home, taking turns with friends on the leading and blindfolding. Use Tasting Room's tasting kit as an opportunity to experience some new wines and apply these meditation techniques to the process. You may be surprised at how much your senses are enhanced!