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…
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.
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!