There’s this little corner store a stone’s throw from our apartment. It’s exactly the sort of place I’d like to open up one day. It’s a neighborhood joint simply adorned where patrons shop the well curated beer, wine, and provisions and perch themselves on stools to have lunch of a rotating menu of interesting sandwiches and sides. It’s the sort of place where regulars frequent and you know the owner by name because he’s constantly there chatting up customers. When I think about my future, I see myself here, combining community nutritional aspects with my degree in Public Health.
When I think about this eventual shop, I feel confident I could create all aspects of my vision, except one: the wine. I love wine, but I don’t know that much about it. Unlike craft beer or liquor when handed a wine menu I feel lucky if I recognize one or two options. Sure, I know what I like and have a few favorite wineries, but I couldn’t tell you much beyond preferring dry and white. And now that grad school is nearly over, and I love being a student I decided to enroll in a local wine course.
One of my favorite aspects of cooking a special meal is the inevitable stop at the local wine shop where the owners are extremely helpful picking out an ideal wine to balance the flavors in the food. As a trained chef, I feel like this is something I ought to be able to do, but can’t. And I love when the wine pairs so perfectly with the meal that it adds another level of flavor, and I wish I could do this myself. Not to mention, wine is just so fascinating. It appeals to me the same way chocolate does, it’s ripe with chemistry! Unlike say, beer, where flavor agents are added directly to the batch through varying elements, nothing is added to wine to change the flavor other than what sort of barrel it’s fermented in. So everything you taste is all terroir. And it’s subjective, based on flavors you recognize. Plus, you are quite literally tasting the earth of that area, which I think, is pretty rad. But there are SO many regions, and villages, and vintages it seems a ridiculous amount of information to absorb, and while I’ve picked a few things up over the years, there’s so, so much I don’t know. And since I’m super curious by nature, I don’t want to just know the difference between grapes, I want to know it all. Or, as much as possible. There’s a reason it’s nearly impossible to become a master sommelier.
Last week we started with Bordeaux and Burgundy, two regions I previously mostly associated with excellent (and expensive) old world wines. This week, we learned about Spain and Portugal. I discovered Riojas this past year and was excited to know more, and learned they are extremely under-rated high performers. I tasted one of the best reds I’ve ever had, and it cost less than $30/bottle (read: win!). I’ve already noticed a difference, just like coffee, training your brain to taste wine properly makes it more enjoyable. And on that, there is no way to “properly” taste wine in public without looking like a pompous ass. But goodness, does it totally change the taste.
Besides, who wouldn’t want to spend three hours every week sipping wine? Next week is Southern France! Aka: wines I can’t pronounce so don’t usually order. I can’t wait!