Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why I don't write about wine

Early morning wine on holiday in Venice

During my undergrad in Calgary I spotted a fancy new wine shop opening up just as the Winter semester was coming to a close. I liked the idea and didn't want to work full time at the hotel while doing one class over the summer and decided to apply.

This was the beginning, maybe the heyday, of speciality wine shops in Calgary and there were tons of young hip people with tons of wine knowledge and expertise buzzing round the city. I was not one of them. I believe I started my cover letter with "I know nothing about wine but I really want to learn." For whatever reason Sandra brought me in for an interview and gave me a job.

The store was gorgeous. In the cellar of the 100 year old sandstone Alberta Hotel Building (ancient by Western Canada standards), brick, old wood, we even had a ghost in the backroom. Because the store was new and in the downtown core after the business types went home the flow of people trickled down to almost nothing and so in the evenings whoever was in charge would pull us round the tasting bar and open a bottle and we would learn. We had access to a vast library of material and great brains full of knowledge - we learnt about the places and the history and why this glass and that grape. We held tastings which were carefully researched and themed. We ate a lot of cheese.  

We studied Le Nez du Vin daily, making up scent experiences like apple pie and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when we tired of gooseberry and barnyard. (At the time I didn't even know what a gooseberry was.) I got to meet local celebrity chefs who did events with us. Bernard Callebaut fed me truffles.

September came and I went back to school and down to one part time job (the better paying one) at the hotel.

For all the training that summer (and I kept up my education, let me tell you! There's a reason I have student loans!) I have never been able to describe a wine without feeling like a pretentious dick. I have an excellent palate for ingredients - I can usually dissect a dish and figure out what is in it - but not for wine. I am more likely to describe a wine with an emotion or memory than a flavour.

So I generally won't write about wine unless it's the story or context, or the emotion and memory of the bottle. Because at the end of the day unless you a wine professional or really into that type of analytical experience, you don't drink wine to dissect it. You drink it to savour it and melt into the moment. And it's those moments and that meaning that I want to remember.

Late Afternoon wine on holiday in Venice

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