Wine Adventures

Are you a wine snob?

Cork Dorks and Grape Geeks

One day, countless thousands of years ago, somebody put a bunch of grapes into some kind of bowl.  The fruit got crushed and the yeast on the skins acted on the juice, which spoiled in the most delightful way.  Thanks to the accident of fermentation, a lot of people got happy.

The making of wine is an incredibly ancient pursuit.  It’s a sacrament to some of the world’s major religions, and, in the last thousand years or so, has become part of what we usually call the finer things in life.  Wine is a cultural artifact, and it communicates something about where the grapes were grown and about the people who made it.

Since winemaking has been practiced for well over three thousand years (almost certainly more), the world of wine has become a very big place.  The topic fascinates many of us, but there’s always a danger that fascination can become obsession, and then…snobbery.  People become cork dorks.  It’s not a good thing.

It’s a well-recognized danger of the wine life:  a practically inevitable propensity to become a grape geek.  A cork dork.  Any hobby, passion, or obsession we pursue takes up a chunk of our lives, and when we get jacked about something, we want to share.  Those who succumb to and pursue an interest in wine can sooner or later become the same way.  Only worse. 

But on the other hand, a bit of wine knowledge and understanding can be rewarding.  It brings to us what we bring to it, so why not bring as much as we can?

Problem is, cork dorks who discourse over dinner about the 500-year history of what’s in the bottle can become boring at best.  And if you ever hear somebody say “it’s a naïve little Burgundy without much breeding, but I’m sure you’ll be amused by its presumption,” well, no jury in the world will convict you if you shoot him.

There are hundreds of grape varietals, and hundreds of places – some well-known and some quite obscure – where wine is made.  You don’t need to be able to name the ten wine districts of Beaujolais, or the five wines allowed in the Bordeaux blend, to increase your understanding and appreciation, but a little effort – and a little knowledge -- can go a long way.

We’re all faced with the problem of looking at restaurant wine list, or gazing upon the selection in a wine store, and trying to figure out what to try next.  Fact is, no consumer product in the world gives us less information than the label on a wine bottle.  About all producers are required to list is their name, the place where it’s made, how much is in the bottle, and the alcohol content.  Not even the name of the grape.  This causes a lot of aspiring wine lovers to throw up their hands in disgust and go back to beer.

The solution?  Sample widely.  Read a bit.  Go to tastings and wine dinners where people speak about the wines being poured.  My favorite introductory book is The Wine Bible by Karen Macneil.  Great place to start.