If you would enjoy fame as a wine expert, there is an easy way to acquire that reputation. Next time you are served a glass of wine, lift it by the stem (not the bowl!). Wave it under your nose with a circular motion. Smell the wine, and look thoughtful. Take a sip, cautiously. Then, find fault with it. This is the surefire way to have others regard you as a connoisseur Although it will get you by, you will only have qualified, thus far, as a wine snob.
If, on the other hand, you genuinely wish to cure your awe of unpronounceable wine labels, to hold your own in a wine discussion, to avoid being fleeced by nasty waiters, and to enjoy this delightful beverage without the risk of committing social disaster, take heart now. This article will help to unravel for most of the mystery that enshrouds the thousands of different liquids known as wine.
Not the lack of information, but too much information that baffles and bewilders those who seek simple guidance to gustatory pleasure is largely responsible for this mystery. Millions of words are written and spoken in praise and explanation of wine without an explanation of the explanations. Meanwhile the product itself becomes increasingly entangled in a maze of overlapping type names, geographical designations, vintages, and general mumbo jumbo so confusing that it is quite unintelligible to 99 out of 100 storekeepers and restaurateurs who sell the product.
The average American, who sometimes vaguely wonders what this or that bottle’s contents might taste like, but who is not inclined to undertake lengthy investigations, usually just walks past the store shelf, or puts aside the restaurant’s wine list, and buys beer, coke, or Bourbon instead.
Why does this hodgepodge continue to exist? Why don’t wine labels tell in plain English what they mean? Who draws up those fearsome charts of vintage years and service temperatures, for what reason? Who decrees white wine with fish, red wine with red meat, long-stemmed glasses for Rhine, short ones for Burgundy? Why aren’t the different kinds of wine given simple names, like those on the different kinds of canned soup, so that a novice can read the label and choose the vintage to serve with his skirt steak?
Much of wine’s complexity can be blamed on its charm. Its romantic qualities, possessed by no other food or drink, receive so much attention that they tend to obscure its simple function as a beverage.
The homage paid to wine is richly deserved. As the blood of the grape, bestowed by Nature with the magic power to create happiness, it has sacred religious symbolism. Its beginnings are lost in antiquity; its ancient history is traced from the hieroglyphics of Egypt and Babylon, from the writings of Greek and Roman poets and from no less than one hundred and 65 references in the Bible.
Philosophers and physicians have sung wine’s praises since the dawn of civilization, as an adjunct to life, health, and happiness. Modern gourmets and authors of cookbooks praise it as an inseparable companion of fine foods. Through all the ages of man it has been associated with feasting, philosophy, art, music, and love.
Little wonder that its advocates strive to preserve these intangible, romantic qualities. It is also understandable that wine’s proud heritage of tradition, although a source of much puzzlement to the general public, still largely governs its production and nomenclature.
Helping to weave the web more thickly are wine’s staunchest friends and admirers, the connoisseur cult of Great Britain and America, whose number grows with the sales of gourmet books and with the worldwide expansion of such organizations as the international Wine and Food Society. These worshipers of Bacchus regard red and white varietals in the way the philatelist, who never uses his specimens to mail his letters, regards the stamps he collects.
As they sip the object of their hobby (a kind of pleasure denied the stamp collectors), the wine fanciers discuss the optimum bottle age for Cabernet Sauvignon, the grievous error of serving brut Champagne with dessert, and fine distinctions between vintages differences quite imperceptible to an average consumer and often also imperceptible (unless they peek at the labels) to the connoisseurs themselves. wine tours from portland oregon