I don't get it. Wine, I mean. I get most things, but this wine thing completely escapes me. I know there's red wine, white wine, and something in between, but when you start getting beyond that, I get lost very easily.
I have a friend who has a daughter who is something called—I think—a fifth level sommelier. I don't really know what that means, but I'm told that in order to get the merit badge or whatever it is they get, she had to learn to identify by taste not only the type of wine, but also where it was made and who the winemaker was. I think she even had to name the year it was bottled. Personally, I think they make it all up.
I used to make wine in college. We couldn't afford to actually buy a bottle. After all, back then a bottle of Boone's Farm Apple Wine (the most popular brand) was $.89, and what college kid could waste that kind of money for a wine buzz? We used to take grape juice, add a little yeast, shake it up and let it sit in the kitchen for three days. Presto! Alcohol. We called it Grannie's Three-Day Wonder, and it was almost undrinkable. The key word being almost. When you're twenty, you'll drink almost anything.
Perhaps with that sort of background in wine drinking, it's not surprising that I'll never be a sommelier. I'm the guy who got excited when Trader Joe's came out with Two-Buck Chuck, their own brand of cheap wine. I haven't tried it yet because I'm not really a wine drinker, but someday I will, just to see.
The Lovely Louise drinks wine. Her preferred type is Cabernet Sauvignon. She claims not to be able to taste the difference between a $10 bottle and a $20 bottle, so she says we should just buy the $10 bottle. One day, for her birthday, I bought a $75 bottle of Cabernet and she (and I) could definitely taste a difference. Maybe there is something to all this wine snobbery stuff after all.
Okay, I can clearly taste the differences among bourbons, so maybe wine people really can tell if a wine has notes of cinnamon or apples or whatever the hell else they seem to be able to taste and I can't. I hate when I order wine at a good restaurant and the waiter, who's probably just killing time until his singing career takes off, tries to embarrass me by describing all of the delicate notes of a particular wine and then pours me just a drop so I can taste it and effusively assure him that his appraisal of the wine is dead on. There are times when, if he's particularly snobby about it, I will stare at the glass for a moment and then turn to him and say, “Hey, if you want me to taste it, give me a decent taste. Fill it up, my man!” I then proceed to down the whole thing in one swallow and say something like “You're absolutely right. I can taste the most amazing earth tones in the grape. Seventy-one was such a miraculous vintage, don't you agree?” Then I just smile at him while I smack my lips loudly and ask him to pour me another glass.
I'm afraid that my ability to determine wine quality is limited to two categories:
1) Wow, that's really good shit!
2) Wow, that's really bad shit.
So far, it's worked pretty well for me.