I don’t think there is enough honesty in wine. People don’t usually give their frank assessment and I like to…as much as possible. For example, I was tasting at a winery years ago and was asked how I liked the wine. I replied, “Do you want my honest opinion?”. The man behind the counter took a step back and gave me a strange look. The five or so others all turned and looked too. They were probably thinking, “Who is this person?” And I was wondering why such an honest question drew their attention.
The story of wine isn’t always an honest one, contrary to what Pliny the Elder said in the first century AD, “In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas”– In wine there is truth, in water there is health. Over the years we’ve seen deceit (Jeff Hill and the Hill Wine Company) and fraud (Rudy Kuriawan and his counterfeit kitchen). We saw the Zinfandel grape falsity in the late 1980s – early 1990s which put White Zinfandel on every market shelf but that’s not what most people were drinking!
My wine story started just before I turned 20. Out of necessity to have cash during school, the younger brother took a job in the wine department at Liquor Barn. He practiced French pronunciation to sound viable to customers. Next, he started porting bottles home for tasting. It was the Jaeger (Inglenook) Merlot that caused me to pause. An honest taste that captured my heart, that proved there was more to wine than what mom and dad were drinking: Blue Nun and Mateus Rosé.
Wine remained a casual part of life through college. I got cozy with it while doing a semester in Switzerland where access to Merlot del Ticino, Dole and Fendant (Chasselas) was easy, and Italian wines were affordable. Unknown grapes and different wines were what I craved.
A good job in my late twenties meant wine was still easy to get. An intense internal desire grabbed my hand and led me to Suave fruit finishes, fine dustings of tannins, and citrus driven minerality that seized my taste buds and demanded attention. While friends were partying on Friday nights, I was hanging out at Sam’s Liquors in Chicago.
The Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz experience was an epiphany. I bought two bottles and popped one the next night enjoying a glass while making dinner. To my surprise, I didn’t like that chewy, blackberry, spicy wine with notes of earth and smoke that lingered and sucked the moisture out of my mouth! A few weeks later I took it to a dinner party where pork loin was served with roasted shiitake mushrooms over a brown sauce. It was a delicious hit- it changed my mind about that wine. A whole new world opened up, that of food and wine pairing.
There were years wine had my assiduous attention then work would take over and casual drinking with friends and clients was the norm. A move to the west coast elevated interest; garage wine was made and a winery job landed on the table.
The wine story, however, got quashed more than once, and not always by me. It gave me signals, kind of like your gut does, if you listen to it, the universe telling you something. I grudgingly turned my head several times.
Then the hubby began to pay attention to wine. Vacations were about food, wine and hiking. He engaged in wine discussion and joined me, giving his honest- yet censored- feedback when tasting. It was indubitably apparent wine was singing in both of our ears.
And here we are today in Bordeaux, studying wine. He decided to take the plunge, I’m thankful for that, and for the ability to be persistent, even when it looks like the sun won’t rise. And for those who said never stop and encouraged me to push the envelope.
Our wine story isn’t finished, in fact it’s really just beginning. Years of casual interest and study built a great foundation.
I’m We’re moving forward, at times cautiously, more often fearlessly. The most exciting thing is it’s happening, and happening together. And like the hubby, I now know where and when to share my honest opinion.
A special thanks to John from Pairs With: Life for choosing this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC29) topic: Winestory. With this challenge, the accent is on the writing and not the wine, as John says. Click HERE to read other November challenge stories. And be sure to vote for your favorite story HERE!
Anytime life can turn into more of an exploration than expected celebrate it as an affair.