Rediscovering Wine After Covid-19

After a full month, they began to feel much better; Dr. Pourfar’s symptoms did not disappear entirely until mid-May. His sense of smell, though, did not return. He understood that losing the ability to enjoy wine was a small price to pay for one’s life and health. Still, he could not help but feel that in a small way he had been diminished.

Like many wine lovers, he had constructed what he called “life’s comforting rituals” around fetching a bottle: “The considered selection, the careful handling, the slow, deliberate opening and thoughtful smelling, the little smile, they were gone,” he said.

Dr. Pourfar, who grew up in Monroe, N.Y., near West Point, discovered wine when, as a high school student, he spent a year in Alsace, France. There, he lived with a family who always had wine on the table. He found himself paying attention to it, and wine became entwined with his time there.

“You don’t realize what a powerful connection these sorts of flavors can have with your life’s experiences and memories,” he said.

From there, in fits and starts, Dr. Pourfar set out on his exploration. In medical school, he fell in with some fans of German wines, and then, when he decided to study wine seriously, he began with Bordeaux, a customary point of departure because of its rich history and the relative simplicity of its structure and geography.

Like many whose wine journey began in the 1990s, Dr. Pourfar first embraced the bold, fruity bottles that were popular and critically acclaimed at the time. As he became more confident in his own tastes, he gravitated toward subtler, more nuanced wines. Eventually, his arc of discovery led him to Burgundy.

“It’s where everybody ends up in this world, and it took me a long time before I got it,” he said.

Any wine at all, however, seemed unthinkable as he recovered from Covid-19. So much of the pleasure of wine and the ability to taste are dependent on the nose. But he could not smell much of anything.

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