Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I love wine.

I love drinking wine almost as much as I love reading books. Sometimes more. Of course, I often do both at the same time. One can also drink wine while talking about books. And eating fine things.

There was a time I wanted to know more about wine. I bought the occasional issue of The Wine Spectator. I attended wine tastings. I watched Sideways and Bottle Shock (which strengthened my anti-French sentiments). I read about wine. I drank wine while reading about wine. I even took a MOOC about The World of Wine: From Grape to Glass (new session starting soon!).

And I have watched every documentary about wine and wine-making available on Netflix. I have a particular fondness for Somm ("freshly opened can of tennis balls"), in which it is impressed upon me that in addition to amassing knowledge and cultivating a nose, the connoisseur must exercise imagination and execute deadpan delivery, and its recent sequel Somm: Into the Bottle ("I feel like a sommelier when I'm opening a $5 bottle of wine with a $300 corkscrew."), in which is extolled the inspired pairing of popcorn and chardonnay (I've been saying that for years. Duh, butter!).

I'm practically an expert.

And I realized something: the world of wine doesn't fascinate me nearly so much as the world of the wine connoisseur.

Don't get me wrong. Wine is delicious. There is no occasion that wouldn't be complemented by a bottle. But it should be deftly woven into the fabric of life. It's the connoisseurship that demands to be noticed, and it both delights and shocks and awes and leaves me aghast.

This morning I found some clickbait in my inbox, and fully baited, I clicked. The 8 Worst Mistakes Wine Drinkers Make. I'd like to take this opportunity to call bullshit. The biggest mistake is believing these are mistakes.

Let me address these point by point.

1. Filling your wine glass up to the brim — not a mistake
Don't be a wine hog, but no, there is nothing wrong with filling your glass. Of course, much depends on context. If you're there to "taste" the wine, perhaps you need to be seen swirling and sniffing. But if you're there simply to taste the wine, save yourself another trip across the room — pour yourself a tumbler full and enjoy it.

2. Holding your wine glass by the bowl — not a mistake
Yes, it warms the wine. But any wine worth its oak will withstand the minute temperature change. What's more important? Not feeling awkward. You feel the stem may slip through your fingers, you're tipping the glass, so you grip tighter, and now you're afraid of snapping the stem. (Maybe if you hadn't filled it so much it would be easier to hold.) Just be comfortable. Hold it whatever way feels right.

3. Buying wine because of the label — not a mistake
How else are you supposed to decide? Yes, I buy books that way too. There's a lot of useful information on the label, including region, grape type, and suggested accompaniments. And a vineyard's approach to marketing — traditional or innovative, subdued or flashy — can say a lot about its product.

4. Drinking the same old stuff — not a mistake
Yes, one should keep an open mind and try new things. But there's nothing — NOTHING! — wrong with standing by an old favourite.

5. Sticking to classic wine pairing rules — just a bit of a mistake
OK, this one I actually agree with. It's a mistake. Rather than classifying by red or white, try thinking in terms of fullness, fruitiness, or acidity. But hey, there's nothing wrong with a colour-coordinated palate either.

6. Drinking too fast — not a mistake
Examining every slow sip may be one way to learn about wine, but it's not the only way to enjoy it. It can be thirst quencher and a palate cleanser. Not every wine needs to be an education.

7. Dissecting wine on the initial pour — not a mistake
No, you shouldn't share your impressions with the waiter, but that first sip is different from all the other sips you will be taking. It's certainly worth considering, and you can even set some expectations by it.

8. Not using Vivino — also not much of a mistake
I've tried using this app, and it's failed to identify the half-dozen or so labels I've scanned. I'm not sure if this is due to poor recognition technology or if the database just doesn't include the wines available to me locally.

Currently drinking: Ch√Ęteau Cazal Viel Viognier 2014, Pays d'Oc, France. Initial purchase based on the vaguely Florentine styling of the label. Subsequent purchases based on how tasty it is.

Do I sound like a wine snob now?

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