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Taste test

Written by Paul Bateman

Lost and found

I caught COVID-19 for the first time, earlier this year. The virus presented in me as a common cold: blocked nose, itchy throat, a sense of deep fatigue.

This was tolerable enough, until I woke one morning without my sense of taste or smell. There was coffee brewing on the stove, steam rising from its lid, but I couldn’t the smell the coffee or taste its bitterness. I bit into a peppercorn and sensed nothing but a textural crunch.

My bewilderment turned to panic as this new and total absence was replicated, again and again, with every passing hour. Anything that once possessed an odour or aroma now presented as diminished, devoid of its vitality and weirdly incomplete.

I felt as though a bridge between the physical world and my sense of self had suddenly imploded, leaving me untethered, stranded and alone.

I ate when I was hungry, but derived no joy or memories. A glass of wine seemed pointless, robbed of its aroma and devoid of any flavour: no perfume rising to my nose; mere liquid in my mouth.

The immensity of this loss and confusion was compounded by the great pleasure and meaning I derive from food and wine.

I like to cook. I like to eat. I am conscious of my palate and proud of its refinement. In times of stress or weariness, I have stood in the kitchen preparing a meal and found my equilibrium.

A love of wine has given me a deeper, richer life. Wine awakens and engages me at some fundamental level.

I am prone to over-thinking. I can ruminate incessantly, until I’m nowhere but exhausted. Wine draws me from the house of thought and leads me to the robust world of sensory experience.

To fear this may be lost forever; it was especially hard to bear.

I held my nerve, subdued my dread. Day by day, meal by meal, my two diminished senses re-awoke and re-engaged with the aromatic properties of food and wine and living matter.

And so restored, I too awoke and renewed my taste for life.

About the author

Paul Bateman

I'm a writer from Melbourne, Australia. I love those moments where life and wine intersect in ways that matter. I write on other subjects at


  • Oh paul, how lovely to read your voice again.
    We, Kaz and I, have moved to NSW after leaving Victoria on the day the borders closed. 12 month in emergency nursing in Katherine and now Wollongong and here to stay. There was something someone said that you were in Spotswood. And I thought of something special a lifetime ago. We are looking for a flat in the Gong and Kaz said just like Paul’s flat in St Kilda. The search continues the memories are sweet.

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