It played a major role in my conception [as a story I once heard].
Well, having given my opinion on wine lists the previous month, here is some more, especially regarding waiters trying to convince you what to have, like the red or white Chenin Blanc.
Many of us are not much of a wine expert. When a waiter brings us a wine list, apart for going for value for ‘many’, we seldom go beyond the time-honored system of “eeeny meeny miny mo”. Why do most of us try to impress the waiter, or is it only some of us?
“So what kind of wine do you like?” the waiter asked. “Whatever tastes most like Kool-Aid,” I said. He chuckled as though I was kidding. He eventually poured something into my glass then asked me to swirl it. “The swirling,” he said, “opens up the wine. Reds are especially tense out of the bottle.” We all drink and learn at the same time. Just like at college.
The waiter wedged his nose into the glass the way a linebacker does an oxygen mask. That’s why wine glasses are so big – to fit your snout in. Apparently, it helps you shift gears too. “Have you ever reached for a glass of iced tea thinking that it’s 7-Up? That’s why we sniff.” Finally, after all the pomp and circumstance, I was given to do what I came to do: Get hammered. No, no, no. I had come to debate the floral undertones of wine while wearing a monocle.
We started with my favorite wine, the “Viognier” [pronunciation tip: don’t sound any of the actual letters]. Some waiters push voy-NYAY on Chardonnay junkies when they want to get crazy]. “My job,” says the waiter, “is to help you discover your preferences. If you’re into Kool-Aid, do you prefer Sharkleberry Fin or the Great Bluedini?” I held newfound respect for this man.
The waiter recommended reading Wine for Dummies unless you’re a complete idiot, in which case read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine. Eventually we graduated to red wines – the Dark Side – starting with my favourite, the Pinot Noir.
Then the waiter explained the difference between red and white wines, and despite what your uncouth brain tells you, reds do not simply come from red grapes. The color comes from tannins in the skin. “The tannins,” said the waiter, “also intensify your hangover.” I verified this theory the next morning when I found myself bickering at the phone long after it had stopped ringing.
So it goes. “This next wine will be your favorite,” the waiter said, pouring a Sauvignon Blanc. “It has a nice, peppery finish.” Pepper is not something I look for in a wine. In fact, it’s not something I look for in my food. Yet this bottle, Rock Rabbit, was the kind of wine that made you skip dinner. It felt almost nutritious.
Next, the waiter and I swirled our way to the Bordeaux, a Merlot wine named after a busty seventies actress. Merlot is a “dry wine,” which means that if you spill it on your clothes you’ll need dry-cleaning. I struggled to describe the Bordeaux. The waiter had already taken the obvious choice – smoky herbal dusk – so I had to stick with poetic faces.
“We consume so much wine as a society,” the waiter said, “that you can hardly find a six-year-old chardonnay. Most wines are designed to be consumed quickly.” Actually more than 90% of all wine produced in the world is meant to be drunk right away, meaning anywhere between now and 6 months. 90%! And boy was I consuming quickly. The bottle read “12% alcohol by volume,” which had something to do with how loud we were getting.
By day’s end, I was not only sideways, but upside down and backwards. I had, however, learned some things. Whereas my motto on wine used to be “quantity, not quality,” I now feel comfortable walking into any snoots y restaurant, looking that waiter directly in the nose, and ordering my favorite wine – whatever they recommend.
Well, not really…maybe you do? Remember: “Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.”