Home > Art, Experiences, Life, Wine Writing Challenge > Wine … It Will Get You In Trouble

Wine … It Will Get You In Trouble

In June 2013, Jeff a.k.a.The Drunken Cyclist, started the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, where the new theme is announced on about the monthly basis by the winner of the previous round. This month’s theme, as announced by The Armchair Sommelier, is “Trouble”.

To be entirely honest with you, I was about to give up on this challenge, as I couldn’t associate “wine” with “trouble”. Before I would “officially” give up, I did what would [probably] most of the married men do – ask the wife’s advice. So the first thing she said, “what do you mean you don’t know what to write about? How about the time when you quietly drunk most of the home-made plum wine when you were a kid”? Yeah, but I really never got into trouble for that, don’t think it was even noticed. “Okay, fine”, she said, “so what about that girl in the wine store…”? Aha – you could probably hear my brain clicking – now we are onto something…

Mouton Rothschild

Mouton Rothschild

When you look at the bottle of wine, do you see a trouble lurking around ? No? Well, let me help you.

Think about bottle shapes. Probably 80% of all the wine bottles made worldwide will fall into one of two shape categories – Bordeaux or Burgundy. Yes, there are some shape variations even in those big classes, but they are nominal. Which means that if you will put next to each other a bottle of Bordeaux which retails for $6.99 and the one which will command $699, they will look very, very similar. What differentiates them? Yes, of course the content, but this is not something you know just by looking the bottle. So the only things which will differentiate those two bottles will be labels. See the trouble yet? Let’s continue.

In the wine store, one is guided by the visual cues – namely, the price tags. Take the cues out – and then even labels look identical. Yes, yes, before you call me an unintelligent low life and stop reading, give me a few more minutes and you will see where am I going. Of course, for the small group of crazy devoted wine geeks, every little word on the label is cherished and carefully assessed. 1982 vintage? Bordeaux? That’s nearly a heart attack. Tiny letters RM on the bottle of Champagne. La Turque, Qunitarelli, Alban, 1961, Pingus, Latour, 2000, To Kalon, Colgin, Riserva… I can go on and on and on with all those cherished words. We see any of those words on the label of the wine bottle, and the brain immediately sends out command for awe and appreciation.

Now, step outside of this crazy devoted circle. Outside of the wine store, does the bottle of 2009 Chateau Latour Bordeaux (about $1,600 per bottle, if you can find it) looks all that different from 2009 Chateau Moulin de Beausejour Bordeaux ($6.99, readily available at your Trader Joe‘s)? No, not really. Bottles look very similar in shape, both say “Bordeaux”, both have the same vintage listed – 2009, both have the word “Chateau” on them. Do you see it now? The trouble is not lurking anymore, it is looming, as a huge stormy cloud, full of wind and water.

Let me give two examples. Here are two real life stories of my friend Zak, the owner of the wine store in Stamford. The first one I only heard from Zak, and second one I witnessed myself.

2006 Ornellaia - sorry, Zak was out of Sassicaia

2006 Ornellaia – sorry, Zak was out of Sassicaia

The lady comes into the store and asks for help. “I’m looking for the bottle of the Italian wine. I don’t remember the exact name, but I think it starts with “S”. If you will show me what you have, I will be able to recognize it”. Zak takes her to the Italian wines section. The lady looks around and says excitedly “this one!”, pointing at the bottle of Sassicaia. Then she looks at the price tag ($179 or so), looks at Zak, back at the price tag and says with the hope in her voice: “this is the case price, right?”. “No, madam, this is the bottle price”, answers Zak, and lady’s face becomes all overwhelmed with he emotions and she mutters “ahh, no wonder my husband got so upset when I used this wine for the pasta sauce…”. Turns out the husband was not at home, and the lady was looking for the bottle of red wine to add to the pasta sauce, and the bottle of Sassicaia looked not any different than any other bottle of the Italian wine… Trouble!

I’m standing in the store talking to Zak. The girl comes in with the bag of empty bottles and starts putting them one by one on the counter and then tells Zak: “I need to get this exact wines”. I’m, of course, curious, and I’m picking over Zak’s shoulder as he is looking at them one by one. Some kind of Spanish wine. Something else I don’t recognize. 1995 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. 1999 Riesling. Something … Wait, what? Mouton Rothschild 1995, one of the First Grows Bordeaux? That will be interesting. Zak points at that exact bottle and says: “I don’t have this wine, miss, and it will be hard to get it as this is an old vintage”. The girl asks if he can get the current vintage. Zak looks in the catalog and says “well, I’m not sure if it will be available, as this is highly allocated wine, but if it will be, it will be about $900… Yes, for a bottle”. You should have seen despair and horror on the girl’s face. Turns out her uncle left on a long trip, and left the girl to be house-sitting. Of course having the house party with the full access to the cellar was not what her uncle planned for, and now that he was coming back soon, the girl was on the recovery mission. Is that a trouble? One look at that girl’s face would tell you – yep, big time trouble!

There you have it, my friends. Wine is a dangerous thing, with the “trouble” spelled all over it… Or not. While there can be multiple personal “troubles” around the wine, which will seem serious to the person experiencing them (think about that girl), in a big schema things, we need to remember that at the most, all those troubles will become great (and funny, for the most part) stories to tell later on. Wine is just a beverage, and there always will be another bottle to drink. I can only wish to all of us, that the wine troubles would be the biggest troubles of our lives. You can pour another glass now. Cheers!

  1. August 5, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Wonderful story, Anatoli. Just the imagination of using a Sassicia for a pasta sauce is painful. Silly girls 😉
    I’m a jealous that you came up with such a good post for the monthly wine challenge 🙂 I’m still having trouble with that theme and will probably skip this one..

    • talkavino
      August 5, 2013 at 10:03 am

      Thank you for your kind words, Julian! Don’t give up – you still have almost two weeks before the deadline…

    • August 5, 2013 at 10:16 am

      I concur, Julian . . . don’t give up! It’s up to you to interpret . . . that’s a blank canvas. There’s no wrong answer. Just write!! Prost! :o)

  2. August 5, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Well done, Anatoil! Not one but TWO trouble stories!! I cannot begin to imagine the uncle’s horror when he came home and discovered the trouble in his wine cellar. I’d have to strangle my niece. OR at least write her out of the will. Salud!!

    • talkavino
      August 5, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Thanks, Kirsten! Based on what I heard from Zak, the girl is alive : ) however, I have no idea how is her standing in the will going… : )

  3. Mika
    August 5, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Nice one! 🙂

    • talkavino
      August 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm


  4. August 5, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Great stories. They say always cook with a wine that you like to drink. Maybe she was applying that principle without knowing it?

    • talkavino
      August 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Yeah, may be she just acted on the instinct, right… : )

  5. August 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Good call to enlist the advice of your wife! These stories made me both laugh and cringe!

  6. August 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Hahaha, awesome post and hilarious (for us who were not directly involved, that is) stories, Anatoli!!!
    I had heard the one about the girl from Zak at your place, but not the one about the Sassicaia!
    I think the one thing I will learn from both of them is to put a lock to my wine cellar: my next project… 😉

    • talkavino
      August 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      Thanks, Stefano! Lock sounds interesting – I’m just curious what would Francesca say… : )

      • August 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm

        Oh well, we both know that already, don’t we? 😉

  7. August 5, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Great post. I completely agree with your conclusion, may all our troubles be wine troubles. Cheers to you.

    • talkavino
      August 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Thanks Linda, appreciate your kind words!

  8. PSsquared
    August 5, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    That’s a great interpretation of the theme, Anatoli! Both stories are hilarious, but only because they didn’t happen to me. 🙂 Well done, my friend!

    • talkavino
      August 5, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks, Patty! Yes, it is better to read about it than to be a part of : ) But things happen : )

  9. August 9, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Great stories Anatoli! For fear of my boys being singled out as one of “them” I have drilled into their heads to never bully anyone, respect your elders, and stay the hell out of my cellar.

    • talkavino
      August 10, 2013 at 12:10 am

      Thanks, Jeff! And I’m glad you are teaching your kids well : )

  10. August 10, 2013 at 12:51 am

    This is classic: “Wine is just a beverage, and there always will be another bottle to drink.”

    Seriously–it’s sounds like an ancient proverb. Wisdom encapsulated. I’m going to memorize this one, and spout it often, and when people ask from whom I’m quoting, I’m going to answer, “From Anatoli, of course.” 🙂

    • August 10, 2013 at 12:56 am

      oh, I forgot to mention, I’m most interested in meeting your wife, the one who inspires you! She must be an amazing woman…

      • talkavino
        August 10, 2013 at 8:01 am

        Absolutely, and no worries – I don’t believe I ever went to Newport without my wife : )

    • talkavino
      August 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Thank you very much, you are too kind : ). I would say this is a common wisdom which is hard to adhere to – we get so attached to all those prized bottles, each one concentrating lots of emotion. I can only tell you, I’m glad I’m not that uncle…

  11. August 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Aaaaaah, I love it! So glad your wife helped you out!! Great contribution!

    • talkavino
      August 11, 2013 at 1:10 am

      Thank you! Glad you like it!

  12. August 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Haha, I experienced the same when i used to work at a wine store – the look of horror when someone realized what the replacements values would be! I, too, experienced it in my personal life. My wife and friend just finished their THIRD bottle and decided they needed more. “More” ended up being a 91 Barolo I was holding onto…. Thankfully not in Mouton Rothschild range.

    • talkavino
      August 13, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      Ouch, I would have to call it a “double-sin” – not only it was a special bottle, but it was also opened when you just need “a little more”, without even remote chance to enjoy it. I also wonder if they complained about bad wine? Barolo typically needs a few hours in decanter, it is not pop and pour type of wine…

      • August 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

        At that point they were too loaded to care. Plus this was several years ago when her palate wasn’t as refined. So yes, double sin!

  13. August 14, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Amen…that our wine troubles would be our ONLY troubles in life! BTW…you nailed it on the head why I love going somewhere I have never been…it is the mystery of it all.

    • talkavino
      August 14, 2013 at 9:10 am

      : ) The mystery is a great driver of our lives. Interestingly enough, that mystery element is always present in the bottle of wine. Even if you are opening the bottle of a very familiar wine, you never know what you will find inside. This is what makes wine so magical…

  14. December 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Reblogged this on mwwcblog.

  1. August 7, 2013 at 9:01 am
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