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Sweating Over Wine

October 25, 2009

People keep telling me that they find the subject of wine intimidating.  It’s a little bit frustrating, because I keep on trying to take the snobbery out of wine and make it less intimidating and accessible to anyone.

But then I stop and remember some of my first encounters with wine (which I touched on in the last wine post).

For years living in Northern California, I resisted getting into wine.  I figured it would be a dangerous hobby for someone who likes to hoard foodstuffs.  And I was right.  But eventually my stance on wine softened as I got more and more into food.  Getting into wine was a natural transition.

A block away from my apartment was a small wine store.  It was a solid local place, filled with interesting bottles and a friendly knowledgeable staff.  Wine lined the walls, and there were wine crates stacked throughout the store with more bottles of wine on top of them.

Whenever I walked into the store, quite literally, I would break out in a cold sweat.  I’d never had this happen before or since.  But I could feel it on the back of my neck.

I felt like a bull in a china shop.  I felt like I didn’t belong.  I was terrified that I would knock over some bottles, and that it would turn out to be something expensive, and that I would be on the hook for hundreds of dollars.

So I walked very straight.  And I was very very careful.  And I was full of fear.

Thinking and talking don’t come very easily to someone who is scared.  So my first interactions with the wine merchants were limited to, “no, thank you, I’m just looking.”  And I would peruse the racks, looking for something relatively inexpensive, with descriptions that sounded appealing.

After several visits to the same store without any negative incidents, I started to loosen up.  And that is when the fun began.

I had no wine words.  But at the beginning of my cheese journey, I had no cheese words either.  The words come in time.  But I figured just like the Cheese Girl could find me a cheese if I told her what I was looking for, so could the wine merchant.

So I told him, “I’m looking for a white wine to serve with a grilled chicken Caesar salad that is under $10.”

And he considered it aloud.  And he thought about the garlic, and the fresh greens, and the char from the grill, and the creaminess of the dressing.  Then he brought me to a few different choices, and talked a bit about each of them.

I picked out the one that sounded most appealing, brought it home, and was quite pleased.

This was very much the beginning of learning about wine.  The more you drink, the more you learn.  But you need to try to pay attention to the wine and find some way of remembering it longer than just the one night.

It could be as easy as buying two bottles of the same wine so you have one for later.  Some people keep a wine scrapbook, or take pictures of wine labels.  When I try a wine from a new region or a new grape, I like to research it and learn a little more about what I’m about to drink.  For me, it heightens my enjoyment of the wine and helps put the wine in a broader context.

The irony of it all is the more you learn, the more you understand how little you really know.  Wine is like music.  It’s a huge subject area.  There is literally no way for anyone to truly master it all.

But that should not stop you from enjoying it – without fear – and without intimidation.

If someone does make you feel intimidated about wine, you come here and tell me all about it.  We’ll get you back on track, and I’ll give them an earful.  I have no patience for wine bullies.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    October 25, 2009 10:19 am

    I’m intimidated by the price: even bad wine usually costs at least $8 or $9. Decent wine $12 plus. A half bottle a day is thus $42 a week. Compare that with water or tea. Or even a gin and tonic!

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