1. A lover or connoisseur of wine. – Merriam-Webster1
2. Someone who deliberately puts off actually drinking any wine because they’d rather talk about it for an hour first. – The Nut
In August of last year, the Nutty In-Laws decided they felt like spending a weekend in wine country, and invited Nutty Hubby and I along.
This was slightly amusing for one key reason: Nutty Hubby doesn’t drink.
Still, it meant a weekend away, and although my other half might screw up his face like a baby sucking on a lemon at the merest hint of alcohol, I like wine perfectly well. Plus there was plenty of other stuff of interest to Nutty Hubby in the Okanagan, like food, and more food. That man will go anywhere with you as long as you keep him well fed.
So we went, and we saw some astonishingly beautiful wineries…
…walked among vines loaded with plump, succulent grapes…
…and explained to four different bemused tour guides that the only way Nutty Hubby would be joining in the actual wine tastings was if they strapped him down and waterboarded him with the stuff.
I spent the entire day with either a camera or a glass in my hand. Sometimes both at once.
I also spent very little time listening to the guides.
I get it. Winemaking is an incredibly complex and scientific process with tons of variables to be accounted for. That’s really impressive and everyone involved deserves a hearty pat on the back. But can I please go photograph pretty things and drink now?
It’s not that what you’re doing isn’t terribly interesting, it’s just that I find the technical details of how to achieve a perfect oakiness or what percentage of which grapes you combined for which vintage kind of unsexy when I’m trying to have an intimate moment with my Chasselas.
The guides I ignored the most were the ones who tried to steer us through the tastings like we were horses with blinders on. “You should be picking up notes of orchard fruit and a hint of smokiness.” “Look for a quirky citrus finish on this one.” “One of our employees dropped his wristwatch in the barrel when he was taking samples. Pay attention to the smooth notes of leather wristband and slight stainless steel tang which this has imparted into the wine.”
Some people enjoy this kind of direction. They convince themselves they do taste all those things just because they were suggested, and they walk away relieved that their tastebuds did not embarrass them by doing anything silly like having opinions of their own.
I prefer to just drink the stuff without any prejudices or preconceived notions, and experience it on my own terms.
Case in point, my favorite tipple of the day came from a little shoebox of a winery that our tour group could barely all fit into at once. There was no preamble. The wine was poured and passed out, we were given only its name and year, and then we drank.
It was perfect.
I wondered how many other hidden gems I had been missing out on.
I resolved to find out.
So ever since the trip, I have taken to buying wine in pairs. The first bottle I choose is always one of my personal favorites, or occasionally one recommended to me by a friend.
The second bottle must adhere to a specific set of criteria:
- It must be a wine I have never tried before.
- It must be from a winery I have never heard of before.
- Something on the label needs to make me smile.
I have bought wines because of terrible puns. I have bought wines based on sheer impudence. I have bought wines which simply caught my eye with an interesting logo. I have bought wines solely at the request of my menstrual cycle.
Was each and every one of these wines incredibly nuanced and memorable? No.
Was it still fun to try them all out? Fuck yeah.
My aforementioned personal favorites now include several of what I have affectionately dubbed my “whimsy wines”. They are fresh and inventive and delicious and they don’t take themselves too seriously. That’s all I need to know about them.
I may not be the next great sommelier, but I’m okay with that.
Today’s blog post was brought to you by the letter O, the number 750 mL, and the DoIDetectNotesOfPretension? Challenge, AKA the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
1 “oenophile.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 17 April 2015.