Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment. Cheers! - Bethany

Friday, September 14, 2007

I am NOT an expert (or an alcoholic, for that matter)

Over the last few weeks I’ve had a number of colleagues come to me asking for my advice on wine. Where should we go in Niagara? What kind of wine should I have with pizza? Should I drink red or white with turkey? How many bottles should I get for a party?

I happily oblige, rhyming off some of my favourite wineries, or describing my experiences with a good gamay that was perfect for both flatbreads and fowl. I get a kick out of compiling little lists of “must-haves” and sending links to useful sites. It’s simply one friend giving another a bit of advice … right?


“So I’ve hired a sommelier to pick out our wine for the wedding … it’s B.”

ACK! The pressure! I can feel the sweat beading up on my brow, the uncomfortable hammering in my chest that is my heart going into hysterics, and the tingling sensation on the back of my neck that is, without a doubt, a precursor to a full-blown panic attack.

How did I go from being someone who likes wine to the “wine expert” at the table in a matter of minutes? “She’s the sommelier here,” they all say as they hastily surrender the wine list and defer to my omniscience. Oh dear gawd, what have I gotten myself into??

Just for the record, I’m not a wine expert. I love the stuff, but a couple of tasting notes and knowing how to swish-n-spit does not a sommelier make. I’m a novice in this grand world. I’m still learning … and there’s a lot to learn.

Like, how to properly order wine when out for dinner with guests. I greatly embarrassed myself in front of my family at a fancy restaurant when the real sommelier suggested a particular cabernet sauvignon for our meal. I put on quite the show, flamboyantly sniffing and swirling, then proudly announcing, “Sure! We’ll take two!” without even bothering to find out the PRICE. (Which was, in the end, $50 a bottle. Egads.)

Or how to buy wine for personal consumption. Hubby and I set up a mini “cellar” underneath the stairs in our basement and hoarded a bunch of bottles to be aged … only realizing later on that they were better sooner, not later. Hi, vinegar? Blah.

I pride myself in knowing a *little* about wine, enough to have a conversation with a winemaker and get the gist of what she’s talking about. But I still feel completely unprepared and inadequate among experts: my first meeting with Rod Phillips (worldsofwine.com) resulted in me getting star-struck and babbling incoherently like a complete moron. Great first impression.

All that to say: wine is a very subjective thing. The aromas and flavours experienced by one person are generally drastically different from the next. There is no right and wrong in enjoying wine. Want some good advice? If you like it, if it tastes good to you, then drink it.


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