Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Intimidation | July 22, 2010


Like a stare-down from the reigning undefeated World Champ. Like being called out for a résumé of gimme bouts at your own statue dedication by the Southside Slugger. Like stepping into the ring with Mr. T himself. And I’m not talking about the street-smart, big-hearted, rapping role model-Bruise Brubaker- in films like The Toughest Man in the World. I’m talking about Rocky III‘s mohawked bad-ass, Clubber Lang. Such is wine…sometimes. See this [slightly] unaltered excerpt from the film:
“[Wine], what is your prediction for the [dinner]?”

>>“Prediction?”

“Yes, prediction.”

>>“…Pain.”

The pain of insecurity. The pain of ignorance. The pain of indecision. The pain of inferiority. A packed-arena of pain, cultivated by a haughty culture of cryptic scoring systems, foreign lexicon, and ridiculously obscure descriptors. While not a conspiracy theorist, I’ve often felt that wine has been held hostage by the stalwart old-guard, with good reason. Ignorance breeds dependence. Much like contracts being written in a language so convoluted that they require the guiding hand of litigators and arbitrators to decipher, wine journalism can influence the decisions of the unsuspecting public with generalizations made about a completely subjective entity.
Point being made to emphasize the unfortunate intimidation factor often surround the fermented grape-
-(on wine “snobs”- if I may use a horribly overused term- my feelings are torn. People can benefit from a frame of reference…an entirely different, and perhaps rambling, post)-
I often wonder why novices drink the same thing, or avoid wine altogether. Wine is awesome. But, it makes perfect sense: folks seem to flock to their comfort zones. Why would I want to stray from my bottle of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, when possible disappointment and embarrassment are on the line? Or lost money, for that matter? What if I buy something made of a grape or from a region that is unfamiliar, and my guests ask questions? Or worse, what if I buy a wine where I cannot even decipher the label? Wine is about enjoyment, as undue stress doesn’t fit the bill.
Truly, it’s a shame that people stick with the what they know, missing out on so much great stuff, but I GET IT. In fact, the genesis of this post idea came out of the fact that wine intimidation is not relegated to newbies. I recently got to taste along with some local heavy-hitters with serious wine chops. Folks who have tasted- and have access to- just about anything out there. I was very excited, until I read the part of the email that said, “feel free to bring a bottle to share.” A casual statement…intensifying…intensifying…until an almost paranoia to not humiliate myself set in. How could I not disappoint with an offering from my ragtag smattering of bottles, when I knew we’d be drinking stuff like this?
(photo courtesy of rowdyfood.com)
…not to mention the bottles of aged Grand Cru Burgundy I didn’t picture. How could my affordable contribution not fall flat (or at least not elicit whispers from the other folks who may had been duped into thinking I had some level of wine acumen)?
Yes, it’s all ridiculous, I know. Let me flip the perspective for a second. I have generous friends who often like to bring a bottle when they come to visit, especially in celebration of the new addition to the family. However, I’ve had too many people say, “Joe, I hate buying wine for you. I know you know a lot about it, and I just don’t want to get something that sucks.”
Hopefully, the folks who know me understand that I’m very thankful for the thought, whether it’s a ’47 Cheval Blanc or a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. Secondly, anything that is gifted to me is something I intend to share with the crowd, and especially with the person who provided the bottle. So, with all this in mind, I think the best way to handle a bout of wine-intimidation is to simply bring a bottle that you like. You’re probably going to be drinking it, so don’t try to impress me with something that won’t be pleasurable to you (and, for the record, if someone actually showed up with some Mad Dog, that would be very impressive).

Getting back to my point: I think this sense of unbiased appreciation and conviviality was (and is) the modus operandi of the group I drank with the other night. The personalities present didn’t allow for an aura of intimidation. Folks simply had tasted amazing wines, and they wanted to share what they discovered with others. Think about it: when you have really good news, it’s impossible not to spread it. And, sure, some of the wines brought by folks weren’t great (to some palates), but that doesn’t diminish the fact that everyone was selflessly sharing the experience of wine. Even if unappealing to personal tastes, benefit prevailed: a better knowledge of personal preference. Even more optimistically, such a tasting provided exposure to new gems. I know I’ll be seeking out this bottle of Barbera ASAP.
So, I learned more about wine. I got to hang out with some great folks. I drank a lot of good stuff…and I left happy. Where’s the intimidation? Perhaps an occurrence only becomes intimidating if your mind makes it so; and that’s a notion much more rational in the case of a wine dinner (as opposed to-say- a boxing match with a big, mean dude with a mohawk). Just remember (and I’ll remember too) to trust your palate above anyone else’s, be generous, and approach the situation with an open mind. If your compatriots don’t do the same, or at least share some of your sensibilities, it’s time to find a new wine crowd…
…I wonder if Mr. T is a wino?
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