April 24, 2008


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Chronos and Me
10 people you meet at a wine tasting
By Tim Protzman letters@hippopress.com

In anticipation of television broadcast signals going high-definition I finally got cable.

It gives me 200 channels and Michael Imperioli seems to be on all of them. He’s the guy from The Sopranos — Christopher. He’s also in Goodfellas, I Shot Andy Warhol, Law & Order, The Basketball Diaries and this TV movie called The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

That gave me an idea because this week I went to a wine tasting benefit for a magnet school near my house. I didn’t know anyone there. I have no affiliation with the school. But the tasting gave me a chance to sample 107 different wines and purchase them at a slight discount for later delivery. The idea I got was to write about the five people you meet at a wine tasting. It’s not the same five everything, but five or maybe six archetypes who frequent them.

The Wine Bimbo
Can be male or female. They dress nice, but flashy. They wear sunglasses at night. They like wine, but don’t love it. They ask questions like, “Can you make wine from bananas?”

They don’t want the answer, just the reaction to their clever little question. They’re fun and harmless but not serious oenophiles. They really don’t appreciate wine and that’s OK — if they just keep their mouths shut. Nobody wants to discuss the differences between wine and beer or hear about how their Uncle Fred helped the Sox win the Series with his little ritual of drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon out of the same Fred Flintstone jelly jar glass during every game.

Dora the Explorer
She’s been everywhere. If the wine’s from Santorini (a Grecian isle) she’s been there. Oh, and she’s only happy to tell you all about it… “We had this waiter, he was from France, no Finland, no Estonian, no, it did begin with an ‘F.’”

“Fallujah?” I ask.

“Well anyway, we had these little hors d’oeuvres and they were so fishy and it turns out they were octopus!” Isn’t that a stitch!

Doras always ask where. They always have an anecdote. Even is the wine is from Scranton, Pa., they’ll admit they once spent a weekend at the Holiday Inn because cousin Lydia was getting married, again.

He always wants to know the year. He’s obsessed with vintage. He carries both the Parker Chart and the Wine Enthusiast one. He’ll actually turn down a sample from a year that got less than 84 points. An entire year of wine he’ll never taste because of one poor grade. Never mind micro climates. Forget soil and the winemaker’s expertise. If he doesn’t like the year, he won’t drink the wine.

Scratch, Sniff, Swirl
These people do everything with a glass of wine but taste it. You seen them swirling to observe the “tears” or “legs,” which are the streak or rivulets of wine that run down the inside of the glass. I used to think it was sophisticated and could actually help you tell if the wine was good before you drank it, but it’s really only an indicator of the alcohol content. The more alcohol the more pronounced the legs, tears or fingers are. It has to do with evaporation.

More telling is the bouquet. Good wine has a certain smell. Grass, green olives, band aids, chocolate are what I smell in good reds, but it’s subjective. Someone else could smell ammonia and lilac. The best way to tell if a wine is good is still to taste it.

The Ad Exec
Remember on Bewitched Darren was always taking clients out for cocktails? The Ad Exec stands there with a chardonnay and wishes it were a martini. I love this guy but how did he get conned into going to a wine tasting when he really wanted a Harvey Wallbanger or a shot of Grey Goose? He makes cranky faces and a big show of dumping the wine into the bucket. Not everyone loves wine and that’s fine, but if you hate clowns you don’t go to the circus.

Professor Know-It-All
He’s a knowledgeable contrarian who loves an argument and knows his wine. But instead of embracing and educating us peons, he scoffs at our ignorance. Tell him your favorite wine is Buena Vista Merlot ($16.99) and he’ll counter with, “I drink E. Guigal ‘La Turque’ Cote Rotie ($270 to $455) as my everyday wine.”

His aloofness, his condescending manner and his brusque demeanor all stem from unresolved toilet training issues and penis envy.

I’m the slightly tipsy one running from table to table trying as many different wines as possible, without always using the spittoon. I and those like me want to expand our horizons, but may be a tad too eager, like a bunch of stoned college students at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Willy Lohman
You’ll find Willy behind the table. He’s a wine rep for a mass market wine. It’s not very good, and it hasn’t carved out a niche. His wine doesn’t even have a cute animal name. I always try his wine. I always compliment him on it. I always ask a few questions. But I never buy it. That may be why he’s so downtrodden. His boss keeps telling him, “A great salesman wouldn’t care how good the wine is, she’d just sell it!”

Sorry, Willy; I’m not buying the wine if I don’t like it.

The Vicar
He’s also behind the table. But his wine is terrific, and he knows it. He toys with you, half pouring to conserve his precious elixir. He’s picky about who gets to taste. Like a Weirs Beach bartender on the 4th of July Weekend he just ignores you. You try to make eye contact, but you’re not 26 and female. And don’t even try to discuss wine with him because he’s snotty: “You DON’T really like pinot grigio, do you?”

“Gee, with a palate like yours, I’m at a loss as to what I should pour you. Try that boxed wine table, it’s so much more approachable.”

Carry Nation
He’s only there to support the charity. He hates wine and alcohol and would really rather have a silent auction, but he’s too important to help solicit the free gifts. Besides, silent auctions suck. They’re too quiet … unless there’s open bar..

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3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
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2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
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12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
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In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
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Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
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The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
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Our French friends — really
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Tipples for turkey day
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