By: The Wine Guy
Magazine Issue: Vol 2.1
I’m really embarrassed sometimes. Not because I often come across stupid in the column. That goes without saying. But, being 27, I often experience fellow Xers who, with one simple gesture or long drawn-out ritual, totally alienate the entire population within a light-year’s radius. Example. My wife and I were dining at a nice, not overly stuffy or intimidating restaurant recently, and a couple (about our age) sat down at the table next to ours. It became painfully obvious that this guy thought he was God’s gift to wine as he scrutinized the wine list and mumbled his approvals and disapprovals just loud enough so everyone in close vicinity could hear his reviews. After what seemed like three days, he prudently selected a wine, and then, with that ever-so-confident smirk, clapped the wine list shut in the face of the wine steward. (When I waited tables years ago we’d pay busboys to spill coffee on these types.)
The wine was delivered. At this point, simply opening the bottle and tasting it would’ve been the logical step. But, of course, that would be too… pedestrian. Ordering a fine bottle of wine to impress your date requires an hour dissertation on what makes it so, well, fine. From the vineyards to the cellar, this guy covered every aspect of winemaking, right down to the types of barrels this wine was aged in. His date, I must give her credit, put up a great front of seeming interested. But I could tell by the dull glaze over her eyes that she didn’t understand (nor care about) a word he was saying.
Anyway, after thoroughly boring his date — and half the restaurant within earshot — the bottle was handed back to the wine steward (who had left and now come back for the seventh time). The whole obnoxious cork ritual was performed to a “T,” complete with a thorough examination by “Mr. Wonderful,” who did everything but eat it. Now, here’s where the evening took its fateful turn. Yes, you want to make sure the wine is good. Tasting it works. But obviously that would be too, again, pedestrian. Mr. Wonderful was on a roll. He was out to show everyone in the place he knew a thing or two about tasting.
So first, of course, he must examine the color. He held that glass up to every light source in the place, including the exit sign over the door. I’m not quite sure what he was looking for but it took him 37 minutes not to find it.
Then he placed the glass in front of him and proceeded to swirl. No, swirl isn’t exactly the right word. It was more like… have you ever seen a centrifuge spin. Well, imagine that on speed. He had that wine spinning so fast the red pigment separated out and infused itself into the glass. It took three minutes for the wine to wind down.
After the storm passed, Mr. Wonderful cocked his head to a perfect 37 degree angle and inserted his nose into the glass. He inhaled so deeply I thought he was going to suck the room through his nostrils. Not once did he do this, mind you, but three times. I guess he considered that a charm. His date, at this point, was starting to blanch, and had that look as if being swallowed by quicksand — she realized she was in too deep and it wasn’t about to get any better.
Having thoroughly smelled the wine, not to mention everything else within a five-mile radius, Mr. Wonderful proceeded to take a large sip. I knew what was coming next and tried to protect my wife, but it was too late. With more power than a Hoover WetVac rewired by Tim “the tool man” Taylor, Mr. Wonderful sucked air over his palate. Every head in the place turned. Oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling from the loss of room pressure. Doctors came running from all directions thinking he was choking. One had him in a Heimlich before the wine steward could explain what was happening. After the commotion settled and his date was revived, Mr. Wonderful gave approval of the wine and it was poured.
At this point I was kinda hoping, praying actually, that this was it. After all, he had covered all the obnoxious steps to tasting wine. What was left? Maybe now we could all go back to enjoying (stomaching) our meals. A little sucking, a gargle or two and numb-nuts would call it a night. His date, now having regained most of her color, had probably gotten the “I’m a wine God” message and there was nothing left to prove. Well, little did I, or anyone else subjected to this torture, know, but the evening was just getting started.
To make a long story short, this guy sucked and gargled more than a cheap whore on Sunset Boulevard. Every sip was a new audio experience. His date lost consciousness seven times. I haven’t seen anyone that green since the last Muppets movie. I would have been embarrassed for him if it weren’t for the fact that I wanted to kill the bastard. Needless to say, my wife and I (along with everyone else in the place) skipped dessert.
The truly sad thing about this adventure from hell, other than this poor, misguided moron ruined his date’s — not to mention the rest of the restaurant patron’s — dinner, is that he seriously thought that what he was doing was proper; that in order to enjoy fine wine he needed to partake in this whole obnoxious ritual; that by sucking the room through his mouth he was wine “cool.”
My friends, there are no rituals when it comes to wine. There are no rules. There are no correct or incorrect ways to drink wine, to hold the wine glass or order in a restaurant. There are only obnoxious ways. So please don’t fall victim to elitist rituals because you read about them in some formal wine magazine somewhere. If you don’t want to look stupid with wine, don’t act stupid with wine. It’s that simple.
The opinions above are strictly those of the wine guy.