Unlike chocolate, I can’t say I’ve never met a wine I didn’t like. A few exist. That said, I only imbibe when I’m out to dinner with friends, and more specifically, with a couple who have more vintages aging in their cellar than there are stars in the sky. What’s more, the collection keeps growing.
In my youth, I took a couple of wine classes, but I’m far from an expert. I’m a wine drinker rather than connoisseur. I don’t swirl the liquid to admire the tracks it leaves on the glass. I don’t sniff the rim or roll the wine on my tongue as if it were a chocolate marble. To be honest, I’m not fussy and will drink a white wine with spaghetti without batting an eye. What I like about wine is the way it trickles down the back of my throat and the afterglow that follows.
Why no ceremony exists surrounding beer, I don’t know. People walk into a pub, ask for a pint and swill it down. I suppose winemakers consider themselves artists of the sublime, which I don’t deny, and that may account for the sacraments that attend it. All hail Dionysus.
Author Jay McInerney knows his way around a corkscrew, so he jumped at the chance to become a sommelier for an evening at the opening of a friend’s restaurant. (“Cork Screwed,” by Jay McInerney, Town&Country, Feb. 2016, pg. 60, 153.) Most patrons welcomed his suggestions, but a few chose the occasion to display their personal knowledge. One customer complained that red wine was being served in white wine glasses, an obscure point which sent the writer to the kitchen to wash 4 red wine goblets. At other times, customers who assumed they knew their tastes, didn’t. Asking for a dry wine, some settled for a sweeter one.
That evening, McInerney learned a sommelier’s job requires more than a knowledge of wines. Dealing with novices and aficionados, alike, calls for subtle skills. He was glad he’d decided to keep his day job. His decision was one he should have shared with a fan who was dining at the restaurant on the occasion of McInerney’s apprenticeship. She was overheard remarking to her companion: “The book thing must not be working out for him.” (Ibid pg. 153.)