Level 1: Part 1
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” Benjamin Franklin
Wine is in my blood. No, that doesn’t mean that I’ve been drinking (much) and can blow a 0.25 or anything. It simply means that I love wine. I love looking at it, inhaling the essence, tasting it, sharing it, talking about it and writing about it. Wine is art, science, love and beverage all poured into one neat little bottle and corked.
I would like to say I developed my love of wine at a young age. I would like to say that I have fond childhood memories of drinking red table wine (vino da tavola rosso) from little glasses that resembled miniature mason jars with my family, sitting around the table and telling stories of the day. After all, that’s what Italian families do. Unfortunately, I developed my love of wine at a young age, drinking wine with my family, sitting around the table and barely speaking, trying to avoid eye contact or any conversation that required any depth. After all, that’s what American families do. Memories? Not so much. I mean, I was drinking wine when I was twelve. I’m surprised I can still remember my sister’s name. It’s Dawn, right?
When you love something as I do, you generally want to learn all you can about it. Love cookies? Become a pastry chef. Love art? Go to school for art history, wear a beret and move to Florence. Love computers? Learn to code then hack your way to riches. Love your girlfriend? Listen to her stories and meet her mom, you’ll probably learn more than you wanted. Love wine? Become a sommelier.
The Court of Master Sommeliers says they were created to promote excellence in beverage service, but in my reality, they exist solely to teach and certify new sommeliers in the mastery of wine knowledge. In classes and through book research, the Court teaches elements of history, theory, geography, chemistry, theology, biology, meteorology, horticulture and much more all disguised as acts of sipping little portions of very expensive beverages, then spitting them into big silver buckets and telling everyone within earshot what weird elements that beverage exhibits on the senses.
If you’ve attended school up to the third grade, you probably have some experience and skill at reading books, studying a bit and taking tests. You’re probably familiar with absolutes, learning them and recalling them for tests. 1776. Pearl Harbor. E=MC2. 2+2=4. It was the best of times…It was the worst of times. When learning wine in the process of studying for and testing to become a sommelier, there are absolutes. Grapes. Countries. Vines. Regions. Trees. The hard part is being tested for absolutes via the subjective nature of the senses. And if done right, drinking wine uses all of them.
Like two people looking at the same piece of art and seeing two different things, two people can be given the same glass of wine and experience 783 different sensual experiences that lead to vastly different conclusions. The down side? There is only one right answer and you will never know if the one answer you give is the right answer to the question. Ever. All you have is process…and faith. All you have is your reliance on some simple syllogism-like deductive reasoning. If A=B and B=C then A=Cabernet with a hint of Merlot and Petit Verdot from the south facing slopes of the west side of the river in the northern portion of the Bordeaux region of the central portion of France…produced seven years ago by a man in his 50’s with short hair and long fingernails…who had a salad for lunch and likes to read.
This is the journey I am on and this is the journey I will share with you over the next several months (and years) and over the next several posts.
This is the journey, all because of what Benjamin Franklin said. God loves us, and I want to love her back.
Next up: The art of tasting.