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05.10.2009

The Blind Wine Taster

nytimes_blind_taster.jpgShow's the size of the rock I've been living under, but I just found out about the series of photo essays and audio recordings that the New York Times has been doing called "One in 8 Million." These slide shows focus on individual New Yorkers and tell a little of their story with some gorgeous photographs and a recording of their own words.

Interestingly, the most recent slideshow was about a woman named Alexandra Elman who lost her sight due to diabetes in 1995, but has kept up her career as a wine consultant nonetheless. For the past 14 years she has continued to taste wines and consult on wine lists for restaurants, hotels, and retailers around the world.

You should check out the photo essay, as it's quite lovely.

I was particularly fascinated to hear her talk about whether or not she thinks that she perceives wine differently now that she is blind. I've often fantasized (although you can't truly call it that, as I haven't necessarily wished it to be so) about being blind while tasting wine. Cultural lore suggests that often those who lose their site (or had none to begin with) compensate through an increase in sensitivity of the other senses, especially hearing and smell. I have no idea whether there exists serious scientific basis for this supposition, but the idea of amplifying the pleasure that I get from the sensory experience of wine in this way is quite fascinating to contemplate.

Ms. Elman's story is also inspiring for the mere fact that she, like so many people who lose one or more of their capacities in life, continues to lead a life undaunted by that fact.

I'm raising a glass to her in admiration and respect.


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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.