Wine

This isn’t really about wine, but uses wine as a metaphor. The references to wine are accurate, but I’m coming right out and telling you there is a subtext!

I enjoy wine, I always have. In high school, when everyone else was bringing beer to parties, I brought wine. Not cheap wine, although I probably wouldn’t drink it today, but relatively nice wines.

I had spent some years of my youth in California, had visited numerous wineries, and had some appreciation for wines well before I reached legal drinking age. I was perfectly capable of getting drunk, but preferred Jack Daniels on those occasions.

To me, wine represents the complexities of life. I am not as deeply involved as I once was, but I can still tell the grape, style and usually the region of origin with just a taste. I can tell the country of origin of the oak that was used, and sometimes I can recognize the forest the oak came from. I take wine seriously, But I don’t take drinking wine seriously.

When I worked at a winery, I was often asked “What’s the best wine”. The answer is “Whatever you enjoy”. Is broccoli better than carrots? It’s a matter of individual taste. I would find out what wines they liked, and would suggest wines for them to try based on their preferences. If they had no preferences, I would guide them through a tasting, and suggest wines that we made, and also wines they could find near home, based on their responses. To me, it wasn’t about selling a bottle, it was about developing an interest in wines. In the long term, the customer trusts your recommendations and buys more wine. If you just take a snob approach ad sell the customer something they don’t enjoy, they will be unlikely to return and try something else.

It’s about enjoying a food, not taking the proper medicine.

Personally, I enjoy wines from the Saint Émilion region. That is not to say I only drink Merlot, and in fact most domestic Merlot is incredibly bland to me. My favorite Pinot Noirs are from Oregon, not Burgundy, but my favorite Chardonnays are from Burgundy. Montrachets, and specifically Puligny Montrachet, is my measure of Chardonnay. I enjoy Rose wines, not white Zinfindel which has been processed beyond recognition, but damn near any other red grape fermented off the skin is worth trying. In sparking wines I prefer the Blanc de Noirs style, and if it isn’t produced in the classic méthode champenoise you will see the smile fade from my face after the first toast. Not that I don’t like Prosecco, it’s just not at the top of my list.

So having read that you would think me a wine snob. No, I just know what I like. I would never presume to know what you like, or to judge you by your preferences. I might make a judgement based on your snobbery.

Emma loved French wines, particularly Chateau Margaux. It wasn’t the wine, it was the history she loved. It took years for her to accept that a screw cap did not indicate the quality of the wine in the bottle. Coca cola applies a billion screw caps every day, have you ever seen one leak? Cheap corks leak all the time, and wine stored improperly will dry out even a good cork.

I loved making wine. I participated in every aspect, from harvesting grapes to bottling. When we produced sparkling wine I pushed carpel tunnel syndrome while riddling. The process, followed properly, is peaceful, and that sense of peace is somehow conveyed to the wine. Maybe that’s just an extension of my belief that love is the most important ingredient in food, but I can’t recall drinking good wine produced by a harried vintner.

 

 

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3 comments on “Wine

  1. Alice Sanders says:

    My thoughts are that it is really about what people enjoy rather than wine…even though it is really about wine, but that is not the main focus of your writing. What are some great snobby remarks about wine? Anyway, it is a good read. I don’t care for wine, but I do care for what I like, and I do pay attention most of the time what other people like.

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    • kblakecash says:

      Emma was a wine snob, her insistence that French wine is superior based solely on its origin is among the more common snobbish comments people make. The “I only drink (mane a style) wine” comes off as snobbish. Pretense, ascribing qualities to the process that do not exist is snobbish.

      On the other hand, honesty is wonderful. I took a couple through a tasting, and everything was “too dry”. I finally got to a dessert wine, and they said “Do you have anything just a little sweeter?”. I didn’t, but was able to suggest some fruit wines they would find at a liquor store. This was during a festival weekend, and the next day I found them at a table drinking a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry. They had brought friends, and their friends had purchased several bottles of our wine. I pointed out the incident to our winemaker, who allowed me to pour the Boone’s Farm into one of our bottles because we didn’t allow outside wines at our festivals. Everybody was happy.

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  2. My dad makes his own wine (as a kid and before we got the press I squashed grapes with my feet.) It was fermented in the same wooden barrels and stored under the house every year for decades. Mum used to call the stuff vinegar, he (and the rest of the family) drank a glass every night with dinner. I once offered a blind tasting to a sommelier who loved it but couldn’t place the origin or anything but he loved the ‘aged port’ like taste too. A neighbour helps my almost 80 year old dad make his brew now and they use a set formula and his stainless steel barrels… the first batch tasted like dish soap, gone are the subtle flavours of decades of devotion and a recipe that included nothing but a fine ear for the bubbly sound, the right smell, intuition and lots of tastings.

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