If you like both golf and wine, you’ll enjoy this article written by my good friend Cathy Huyghe, wine educator, writer and self-proclaimed golf newbie!
Honing tasting skills and finding par for the course
by Cathy Huyghe
Gloucester resident Cathy MacPherson and I are in the same boat. We both have professions that are a little unusual (golf for MacPherson, wine for me). We are both enthusiastic participants in “side interests” that are similarly unusual (wine for MacPherson, golf for me). And, when we’re talking with people who are new to our professional interests, we are often drawn into very similar conversations. They often start like this: “Golf/Wine is so challenging! I don’t even know where to start.” Or they start like this: “Golf/Wine has its own language and I’m just a beginner. I don’t want to look silly.” When I started in wine, those were my two main concerns, namely that I didn’t know where to start and I didn’t want to look silly. It turns out that when I started in golf, I had exactly the same concerns, namely not knowing where to start and not wanting to look silly.
But it wasn’t until I met MacPherson and asked her to teach me the game of golf that I understood the parallels between drinking wine and playing golf. MacPherson was way out in front of me on this; she’s been thinking about the wine/golf parallels for years. Her company is called Golf deVine (http://site.golfdevine.com/) and she brings together her expertise and her passion for both wine and golf. Someone who loves wine just as much as she loves golf? That’s my kind of teacher. So we started lessons.
MacPherson is an LPGA professional who was voted by Golf for Women Magazine as one of the “Top 50 Teachers” in the country for eight consecutive years, by Golf Digest as “Best Teacher in the State” in 2004 and by Golf Magazine as a “Best Teacher in Region.” As a gifted teacher, MacPherson knows to speak to her students in a way they understand, to communicate key concepts through metaphors that are meaningful to the student.
For me, of course, that metaphor is wine. It started when MacPherson taught me to keep my head low and even through the swing; “Pretend there’s a shelf of Riedel glasses above your head. Look up too quickly and the glasses fall off and break.”
Another example was her explanation of lessening the spray pattern of my shots; “At first, your balls are all over the place, just like your palate is all over the place when you start tasting wine,” she said. “Keep practicing, though, and your spray pattern becomes narrower. Keep tasting, and soon you’ll be able to tell a Cabernet Sauvignon from a Merlot.”
The “keep practicing” idea is, in fact, central to resolving those two beginner’s concerns whether you’re talking about wine or golf — knowing where to start, and not looking silly. The key is to settle into a routine and do the same exact thing — keep practicing — every single time you taste wine or hit a golf ball. That routine is where you start, and practicing it often enough is what keeps you from looking silly.
MacPherson has developed a metaphorical scheme that details what to do before you taste or swing. The acronyms are the same — V.A.P.S.A. — and so is the idea, that is, to create a consistent method.
With golf, practicing the method consistently allows you to set the foundation to enable better shot making. With wine, practicing the method with each taste allows you to assess wines more consistently.
V.A.P.S.A. for Golf by Cathy MacPherson
Visual: Determine the target
Alignment: Set up parallel to the target line
Posture: Create a balanced, athletic position
Swing: The final product
Assess: How was it?
V.A.P.S.A. for Wine
Visual: Look at wine
Aroma: Smell the wine
Palate: Swirl the wine, taste it, judge its texture and body
Spit (if you are just tasting)
Assess: How was it?
Cathy Huyghe is a regular Times columnist. A resident of Manchester, she coordinates a website, 365daysofwine.com, covering food and wine throughout Greater Boston.