Thursday 4 October 2007
Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around
"So, what kind of wine do you like?" I was at a bar with Wine Guy, with whom I'd exchanged numbers at a party. I was a bit intimidated when he described himself as a "bit of a oenophile" and insisted on taking me to a restaurant where the wine list was as thick as a phonebook.
"Red?" I suggested sweetly.
"Be more specific," he said. "Do you like big, ripe tannins? Something with an oaky finish? Ripe, berry overtones?" he asked, speaking slowly as if he was talking to a child.
"I'm not sure," I said. "Something full-bodied?"
I'm the first to admit that I wouldn't know a barbaresco from a zinfandel. I only know that I prefer red wine to white, and can tell when a bottle is corked. Other than that, I'm pretty clueless.
I normally love learning things from the men I date. I once spent an entire evening discussing aerodynamics with a pilot, and another night spinal injuries with a surgeon. But Wine Guy isn't a sommelier; he's an investment banker.
I suspected he was being overly pretentious when he wasn't content to simply swirl the very moderately priced wine in his glass, but insisted on spinning it like a centrifuge, before stopping, swirling, and tasting it four more times before declaring it acceptable. And this was after sending back the first bottle, which tasted fine.
Most of my friends have a Wine Guy lurking in their past – he's the one who prides himself on rudely returning bottles more than twice, or makes a show of smelling the cork – even if it's plastic!
I've never taken wine too seriously. My first drinking experience was back in my home state of Georgia, where we bought bottles with colourful names like Strawberry Hill and Sweet Apple Wine. As we were underage, our wine expert was the homeless guy we paid to supply our booze. I don't think he gave much thought to the varietals.
"Can you taste the hints of espresso in this wine?" my date asked. "Maybe," I told him, "but I did have a Starbucks right before I came in." He didn't crack a smile. Several times I tried in vain to change the subject. But when I mentioned Spain, for example, he brought the subject back to his villa there, and then segued into Rioja.
But WG is very hot, and I was drunk, so I tried to side with him. "I hear that organic wines are better for hangovers, because they don't contain sulphites," I said. He accused me of reading "too many women's magazines", before ordering more claret.
My problem with armchair wine "experts" is that a) taste is subjective and b) I suspect that most of them are bluffing. But I didn't have the heart to tell Wine Guy that. So I listened to his lecture on the maturation process of vino, which was incredible, since I felt I'd aged about five years in five minutes.
Finally, I thanked him for a lovely time and cut him loose. I do want something full-bodied, unique and satisfying, but not from a glass.
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