Home > Experiences, Life, wine > Fears of the Oenophile

Fears of the Oenophile

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

If you are drinking wine only in the restaurant (and only because you have to) or twice a year at the parties, you can safely skip this post. For those of you enjoying the wines on more occasions (and without any occasion too) – please read on and tell me what do you think is real and what is the result of my inflamed imagination.

Would you think that there should be any fears associate with wine? That the fear is lurking around those shiny bottles? Actually, if you think about it, I believe there are quite a few. Let’s take a closer look.

1. “Spoiled wine” – I think this is the mildest of all – except when this is the last bottle of your favorite wine or a special bottle you proudly brought to someone’s house. Many different things can constitute spoiled wine – wine can be corked (musty, wet basement smell and painfully sharp taste with the similar musty flavor profile), or oxidized, or vinegary in taste. In general, it is considered that about 8% of all wine is corked – this is a very sad number if that hits you. Discovering that the wine is spoiled is an unpleasant surprise – but in many cases the problem can be easily addressed (get another bottle from the cellar or you tell your wine steward in the restaurant that the wine is spoiled, and you would typically get  a new bottle of wine).

2. “is this wine ready to drink, or should it wait for a little longer?” Many wines improve with age. If you ever read wine reviews by Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and the likes, you probably noticed phrases like “Drink Now”, “Best before 2015” or “Best 2015 to 2024” – these are wine critics’ recommendations for the particular wines to be at their pick, to be the most enjoyable. But most of the wines we buy (definitely the most of the wines I buy) don’t have any critics recommendations associated with them. So when is the right moment to get the most pleasure from the bottle? There are some general rules, like “California Cabernet reach their pick at about 13 years of age”, but in the end of the day you would need to have a good understanding of the wine regions and particular producers to reduce this fear factor.

3. “is this occasion special enough for this bottle?” Pairing the wine with the occasion can be very tricky and fearful. You are reaching out for that special bottle of Latour, but what if one of your guests will decide to add a little coke to her glass as the wine is too dry for her? Will this group of beer drinkers appreciate the 1964 Rioja Alta which you were planning to open just for this great occasion? Whether you like it or not but you have to address this fear by knowing the preference of your guests and then resolving that you will be happy with your wine selection no matter what.

4. “is this bottle special enough for this occasion?” This is almost the same as the previous one, but with a slightly different angle. Vey often, we are waiting for a “special occasion” to open that special bottle. Every time we don’t know if the occasion is special enough. We keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting, fearing that the right occasion still didn’t come. We definitely don’t want to end up like the main character of the movie “Sideways”, who had his 1961 Cheval Blanc with the hamburger at a fast food place, drinking the magnificent wine from the Styrofoam cup.  If anyone remembers “Tastings” column  in the Wall Street Journal written by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher (the column which I dearly miss), they created an event called OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), where they were encouraging all the wine lovers to reach out for that special bottle and open it on a designated date. I think this is the best solution to address the “special bottle” fear – we need to create special moments for our special bottles, and then everything will magically fall in place.

5. “will I enjoy this bottle as much as I did last time?” I think this is my personal biggest fear associated with wine. Sometimes, I get carried away by the glass of wine – it creates amazing memory of the fiery of taste, it comes through as truly exceptional experience. Once this happens, the next time I’m reaching for the same bottle of wine, the first question in my mind is: “what if it doesn’t taste that great”? What if something was wrong with me last time – special occasion, special surrounding, special atmosphere? What if this wine will not be as magical as last time – did something happened to the bottle or something happened to me, and if it is something which happened to me, then when? The previous time or now? There are all sorts of emotions involved here, and sometimes this specific fear is keeping me away from that special bottle of wine. The best antidote of course is trying the wine, and discovering it to be as good as the last time – that is the special moment of joy, I guess, for any oenophile (works for me for sure).

So, is there anything here you can attest to, or is it all caused by too much free time on my hands? Let me know you thoughts.

And as this is the time of the Holidays, Happy Holidays and Cheers!

  1. December 24, 2011 at 12:23 am

    I frequently struggle with points 3 & 4. I love bringing wine to share to events but worry if the guests will appreciate a nice bottle of wine or if I will bring a bottle that I think is decent and then it gets ripped to shreds. But the risk is always worth the wine!

  2. talkavino
    December 24, 2011 at 12:56 am


    thanks for the comment. You are right – when I’m going to someone’s house, I might spend lots of time moving from bottle to a bottle, trying to figure out “the right one”. And it is a hit and miss, that is also true. But I guess it is part of the fun.

  3. April 25, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Well, tell me about it. It’s not only me who suffers from my fears but also the people around me, who have to put up with my fuss and anxiety while I try to buy wines and who have worries about brining wines to my dinners.
    Bad wines put me in a bad mood sometimes. Is it too much of obsession?

    • talkavino
      April 25, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Yeah, sounds quite familiar…

  4. April 25, 2014 at 9:48 am

    I actually think that re-blogging your own post is far less egregious than re-blogging someone else’s (using someone else’s content to drive traffic to your site just seems wrong to me for some reason, but using your own work? No Prob). As for using this for the #MWWC9, I will need to check the bylaws 😉

    • talkavino
      April 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      This is interesting – I always thought of re-blogging (of someone else’s post) done from the desire to share with your readers something really exciting which you found elsewhere – not as a cheap gimmick to get more followers…

  5. April 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Glad you did re post, I never saw it before. Great post, interesting read!!

    • talkavino
      April 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks, Suzanne, glad you like it!

  6. April 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    If I didn’t repeat myself once in awhile, I’d have nothing to say. This post is perfect for the theme. Number 2 used to make me crazy but now I’ve let it go. If it’s not ready, let it breathe. If that still doesnt’t work, who cares? There are more in the basement.

    • talkavino
      April 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks, Bill! Yes, I hear you – compare to the real fears of this world, our wine fears and wine problems are so non-essential…

  7. May 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I think that last point is a tricky one. It’s not just that the wine might be different – I think many other personal factors come into play when you really enjoy a wine.

    • talkavino
      May 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      yes, this is exactly what I’m trying to say – way too many factors affect perceived taste of wine. When you are afraid that your expectations will not be met (for whatever reason) is that exact moment of fear.

      On the basic level, there is only one fear – fear of pain. It doesn’t have to be a physical pain, it can be an emotional one – a fear of rejection, a fear of look stupid, a fear of not fitting in, what have you. So here is your moment of fear of not looking your best, either previous time or at the current moment…

  8. GFwinecountryliving
    May 6, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Those are the real questions. Not a bad life when those are your dilemmas!

    • talkavino
      May 7, 2014 at 6:50 am

      Well, in the concept of the real life, 99% of the world’s population would kill to have these as their only fears. If we look at this simply from point of view of just one of the millions of passions people have, as passion solicit lots of emotions, I’m sure fear is lurking around in one or the other form…

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