This post is inspired by a recent the kitchn post about romance with a foodie. In my case, the protagonist is wine, not food. My significant other enjoys drinking a nice glass of wine and will sometimes tell me what he smells, but he doesn’t want to join me as I work my way through the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine, for which I can’t blame him.
It is hard for wine lovers to go out into the real world and behave like someone who could just as easily order red as white. It is harder if the restaurant wine list includes ALL the producers of a lieu-dit in the Côte d’Or that you’ve only ever read about in Wine Spectator. And if there is a sommelier or the wait staff is well-informed? Game over. We’ll be here all night. And your partner needs to understand that.
I’ve written the below list for anyone starting a relationship with a wine lover. There are some things they should know.
1. You will be taking a corkscrew with you where ever you go. It does not matter if it is a long weekend getaway to the beach or the delivery of cookies to a neighbor’s house. Your wine lover never knows when the opportunity will arise to try that one wine he or she has only dreamed about. The worst thing is to be faced with that bottle and no way to remove the cork. Better pack two. And a notebook for scribbling tasting notes might not be far behind, either.
2. You should schedule ‘no-drinking nights’ as soon as possible and stick to them. It is not to be a buzzkill, but consuming wine, an alcoholic beverage, is fun until you can’t remember the last evening you spent without a glass of wine or two in your hand. It is generally supported that a glass of red wine a day is a great antioxidant and can protect against heart disease, but it is a hop, skip, and a jump over to headaches, grogginess and more. Anyway, it tastes so much better if you have waited all week to pop the cork on that new sample!
3. Wine pairings are real and your partner will be that much more into you if you participate in the fun. They do amplify or soften the food you are eating. And they are not what they used to be. Red wine with meat and white wine with fish is passé. Americans are drinking quality wine in large numbers now (just surpassed the French in terms of volume) and our gastronomy is farm fresh. Have a hand in trying a new pairing, either select the wine or prepare the dish.
4. Wine selection takes time. Have you got a half an hour while your partner inquires with the guy in the wine department about every square acre of Chambolle-Musigny? Didn’t think so. Head over to the produce department and start planning for dinner…for the week. If the selection is for a holiday or special dinner, you might as well stay at home.
5. Brunello is a local sangiovese clone and Barbaresco a nebbiolo – they’re not medieval Italian princes. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll learn things like this through the course of your relationship. Some of it will be useful, most of it won’t. In no time you’ll be rolling terroir off the tip of your tongue and wonder when your French got so good.
For some reason, it usually coincides that a wine lover will also be a (nerdy) intellectual for whom all the wine facts in the world won’t be enough. And this person will be able to tell you a tasting note from 1999 or remember the first time they tried a grand cru, but they can’t recall what they had for dinner last night. Selective wine memory, it’s very scientific.
6. The best gift you can give is wine-related. It might be a humble Central Valley blend or a splurgier, well-researched, vintage foreign import. Also, there are wine books, wine tastings and the never-fail wine country retreat. Remember, for an oenophile the pursuit is lifelong and they can never learn enough.
7. A big part of your partner’s disposable income will be spent on wine. And it may be more than they’d like to admit. Set parameters, especially if there is a shared bank account. Then accept that you will be introduced to more wines from South America than you can imagine and new clothes and other ‘material items’ will be forgone for it. Even if you have no couch to sit on or plate to eat off of, there will be a healthy stock of wine around to ‘drink now’ or ‘for laying down’.
8. Vacations will have a certain wine theme. And I don’t mean that you’ll take a bottle of Spätlese Riesling with you on that beach trip. But that you’ll actually be going to the Mosel on a five-day river cruise during which you will meet with the winemaker and tour the vineyards up and down the terraces. There you will learn about another winemaker in another Weinbaugebiete who only makes Kabinetts, whom you’ll make plans to visit. And this is only Germany. Wait until you get to Australia.
9. There will be spitting, purple teeth, swishing, and swirling. There is lots of swirling and nosing in wine connoisseurship. It is constant. They probably swirl unconsciously out of habit and likely have a particular style. Just let it go, they’ll never stop swirling for you.
And now you can also start holding the glass at the stem. It does not make you a snob, it serves two purposes: a. wine should be served and consumed at an ideal temperature. If you are cupping the glass, you are driving up the temperature of the liquid inside and nobody likes warm rosé; and, b. If you sprayed perfume and your wrist is so close to the rim of the glass that you can’t smell the wine, it takes some of the joy of discovering aromas in the wine.
10. Life is too short to drink bad wine. And there is so much competition for your wine budget these days that you don’t need to drink bad or even mediocre wine. Congratulations you found someone who enjoys one of life’s small pleasures, embrace them. Salud!