Monday, September 22, 2008

Buying wine. And why I suck at it.

There are some subjects on which I can speak with authority. Wine is not one of them.

Neither of my parents are big drinkers, and so we never ordered a lot of wine in restaurants when I was growing up. In college, I was usually drinking beer or really strong badly mixed drinks at parties. On occasions where I did drink wine it was either "red" or "white" and it was almost always Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck).

I took a bartending course for fun one weekend while I was at school, and the guy teaching the class was a bartender at a Marriot in downtown Boston. He said that after Sideways came out Merlot sales plummeted, but Pinot Noir sales went up about 200%.

I can just imagine some asshole trying to impress his girl at dinner, "Excuse me, garcon, I'd like a bottle of the Pinot Noir for the table. And please, make sure it's from California." It's like someone volunteering to skipper a sailboat because he saw a movie about Christopher Columbus.

So one day I found myself in the liquor store, searching for a bottle of something to bring to a party. All the hard liquor was behind the counter, and the price tags we so small I couldn't read them from a distance (I needed to get a stronger prescription for my glasses at that point, something I'd put off far too long), so rather than ask the guy to take down 20 bottles so I could compare prices, I just browsed in the wine area.

But since I don't know anything about wine, I didn't know which bottles were ripping me off, and which were a good deal. What the hell does Sabanac Valley mean? Does it say on the label what kind of tannins it has? What are tannins? Does Chianti go with a certain kind of food? All I know is that apparently it can go well with a human liver and Fava beans.

I ended up getting a Francis Ford Coppola bottle. I got that one because I figured even if the wine sucks, I'd be hanging out with a bunch of film nerds anyway, so at least it could be a conversation starter.

And yes, it was a pinot noir. I too am an asshole when it comes to wine selection.

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