The core tenets of meditation, to close your eyes, quiet the mind and filter out distractions in silence, can also serve as a way to re-experience wine. More than just popping a cork after meditation or yoga, the two passions can become one.
The goal is “to enhance the sense experience of the actual wine and begin to have new and novel experiences with it,” says Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. He’s the founder of the Mindful Living Collective, and the leader of the medi-tasting movement.
When Champagne Henriot, which trademarked the term medi-tasting, contacted Goldstein about an idea to merge meditation with wine tasting, he was immediately receptive to it. He hosts seminars for sommeliers, wine directors and the occasional wine lover. Goldstein has trained three others to be medi-tasting facilitators, located in New York City, Chicago and San Diego.
Meditation techniques for your next wine tasting
“[Medi-tasting is about] putting aside our lens of being the expert and putting on a lens of ‘beginner mind’ so we can start seeing outside of the box,” says Goldstein. The first step, he says, is to study the wine’s appearance in the glass.
“What people start to notice is the size of the beads, if it’s Champagne, or legs, if it’s wine,” he says.
From there, you begin to “feel” the wine through its temperature and weight. Then you bring the glass to your ear, which Goldstein says provides “this popping, this dance of sound. There’s this lightness that starts to emerge in the room [once that begins].”
For the “sniff” portion of a wine tasting, participants are encouraged to breathe in slowly to notice aromas that lift into the nose and body, followed by a second inhalation.
Important to Goldstein’s approach is provenance. He shares details about the wine’s soil, production and how many generations have helped make the wine. Finally, there’s a sip.
“Now we’re being mindful of the history and everything that’s gone into it,” says Goldstein. This sip always feels “worlds away” from the one at the start of class, he says.
For intuitive coach Cassandra Bodzak, author of Eat with Intention: Recipes and Meditations for a Life that Lights You Up (Race Point Publishing, 2016), to become a medi-tasting teacher was a no brainer. In the spring, she began to host hour-long sessions where three Champagnes are tasted at Malibu Beach Inn in Malibu, California.
“We hit on all five senses,” says Bodzak. That begins with meditation in a glass-walled space that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. “This center’s [participants] in the moment and helps connect with the beauty of the day, of the waves crashing behind in Malibu . . . and wash away any stress or anxiety.”
For that first “whiff,” Bodzak encourages participants to close their eyes and “allow whatever thoughts arise in connection to the scent to just rise up without judgment. It’s okay if it reminds them of their grandma’s living room. I encourage them to utilize their memories.”
The philosophy can appeal to wine novices who may be nervous about not experiencing the “right” scents or flavors, says Bodzak.
A looser and more invigorating version of medi-tasting is “Shakti & Champagne” at Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club in Honolulu. Tucked into the hotel’s penthouse on the fourth Tuesday of each month, this merger of Shakti Flow, an active form of yoga, and bubbles can accommodate up to 25 people.
Studies show that meditation of any form can better one’s lifestyle and state of mind. “Building gratitude and appreciation are inversely related to feeling anxious and depressed,” says Goldstein. “There’s always someone in the room who has experienced meditation, but they’ve never applied it to wine tasting.”
Bodzak agrees about the power of medi-tasting. “It feels like the same relaxation and bliss you get after a great massage or while enjoying a conversation-evoking activity with friends or family,” she says. “The meditation also allows people to go deeper and truly have a higher level of presence than they do in their day-to-day lives.”