Crisis in Wine

MWWC_logoThis post is an entry for the 18th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC18), with the theme of “Crisis”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish, Epiphany.

Let me ask you a question – do you associate wine with crisis? Not really? Ahh, you are even puzzled why I asked? Let me elaborate. This question is not about “business of wine” – that part is self-evident. Every business has its crisis moments. Some are relatively small, like broken truck with day’s harvest of grapes, leaked barrel or malfunctioning bottling line. Some are bigger, like hail storm during July or a frost in late May. Some are huge, like earthquake in Napa valley or phylloxera epidemic. But – business problems “come with the territory” – the only way to avoid them is not to be in the business at all.

Now, my question about wine and crisis is not about the business, it is about people who like to drink wine. I mean, really like it. Those who make wine into a passion. They often referred to as oenophiles. Or wine aficionados. Or wine geeks. Depending on the circumstances, also known as “wine guy” or a “wine gal”; it is not foreign for them to be called a “wine snob”. Anyway, if you belong to this category, you already identified yourself. If you don’t (but you’re still reading this blog, so thank you), you know who I’m talking about. So I have to tell you that we, oenophile (yes, I closely identify as one), go hand in hand with crisis. We readily create the crisis around the wine, then we work our hardest to resolve it – and we feel proud and relieved that we actually did. Need examples? Here we go.

A wine oenophile is invited to the party (no, this is not a beginning of the anecdote). The bottle of wine is selected, with love and care, very often from one’s cellar, and oenophile almost arrives at the destination, when the horror thought takes over – “what if this bottle is corked, what am I going to do then??? Why did I forget to bring a second bottle, just in case, why?”. If you been there, done that, raise your hand. Have you ever contemplated a fallback solution “if this bottle is bad, I know where the nearby store is so I can quickly drive there and pick up something else”? Yep, oenophiles are crisis-prone like that.

A dear and wine loving friend is coming over to the oenophile’s house. Peering at hundreds bottle strong cellar, the thought process starts – “I think this bottle of Pinot should be good. But I don’t think she is into Pinot too much. May be the Cab? No, that might not work with the meal… Or may be that 1990 will do??? And then Amarone? No, no, no! I DON’T HAVE THE BOTTLE TO OPEN!!!” Do you feel the drama? Do you see the crisis once again, which requires a quick action – unquestionably it will be averted, and oenophile and the friend will be happy (unless the bottle(s) will be corked, but we don’t want to even go there), but the crisis is clearly there.

The simplest form of oenophile’s crisis might take place during the daily ritual of opening the bottle for the regular evening – after touching and pulling out tens of the bottles (from that hundreds bottle strong cellar), the spine-chilling thought comes in: “I don’t have the bottle I can or want to drink right now, what do I do?!?!”

There are many more crisis moments we can talk about – the horrifying moment at the restaurant, where after the 5th scan of the wine list oenophile realizes that there is nothing there which one want to drink or can afford; the process of selecting wine to pair well with food; looking at the rare bottle in the shop and thinking that you must buy it now or you will never see that vintage again. I’m sure you got my point by now (or even well before now), and I’m sure you even feel pity towards that oenophile who have to deal with crisis all so often. But – that is the best form of crisis, as it is immediately forgotten at the first sound of the popped cork and whiff of aroma accompanied by the words “ahh, this is good”. This is one form of crisis which oenophiles are happy to have in their lives – and I’m sure many people will be too. Cheers!

  1. July 22, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Reblogged this on mwwcblog.

  2. July 22, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Anatoli, Bravo, I think that we have all encountered every crisis you have mentioned. Though I am having a mini-crisis right now, deciding which wine category you listed fits me the best.

    • talkavino
      July 23, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Thanks John! I’m sure your crisis will have a successful resolution 🙂

  3. July 22, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Ugh! I can definitely relate to the not having the bottle that you want to drink when you want to drink it.

    • talkavino
      July 23, 2015 at 7:09 am

      Yep. And that frustrating feeling of not been able to decide…

  4. July 23, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Nice post, Anatoli! I don’t really associate wine with crisis. My associations with wine are mostly positive 🙂 But I can relate to your ‘crisis’ of not having a specific bottle of wine at home which you had intended to open that night.

    • talkavino
      July 23, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Thanks, Julian! I agree – crisis is not the first thing which comes to mind when you think about wine. But then we are always ready to create it…

  5. okiewinegirl2015
    July 23, 2015 at 8:50 am

    Anatoli, delightful and panic producing! I’ve been in the same spot . . . being filled with the joy and tension of wanting others to experience something one dearly loves coupled with the crisis of picking just the right bottle. I always want it to be ‘just right’ so they’ll love it too! 🙂

    • talkavino
      July 23, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      If not really a crisis, picking up “the right” bottle is often very frustrating…

  6. July 23, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    I definitely relate to the wine list crisis in a restaurant. So often I see outrageous prices beside good but young wines supported by cheap generic blah! Much better selecting from the cellar at home.

    • talkavino
      July 23, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      Yep, I agree. We experience this a lot more often than not…

  7. July 24, 2015 at 2:45 am

    🙂 thinking that you must buy it now or you will never see that vintage again….I can relate to this – especially when traveling and knowing you will never get into the shop you are currently in again, also on rare plants when traveling, you can just take a cutting home, but they invariably die and also you end up taking plants through customs which is a pain….However, but not necessarily for wine as I am not as experienced as you are, maybe I should not strive to be, I can see that this particular crisis would be terribly expensive for me – so maybe I should stop learning now. The crisis you haven’t mentioned is bringing one of your last bottles of something amazing to a treasured friend’s party and worrying about them putting the wine out for general consumption, so that they won’t get to taste it themselves – I have now had two experiences with corked wine – one at an expensive restaurant in America where the host, a self-declared oenophile, didn’t identify the wine as corked, and I ended up drinking a glass out of politeness (what is the etiquette here I wonder) – and once in the BA lounge, where a whole bottle of corked wine had been drunk and when I told the waiter he said, oh just put it back, most people don’t when I give away a nice bottle I want the target person to drink it ( I am bad at giving presents I guess). The second crisis is when you have spent ages selecting a bottle to bring and then when you get there the host says “oh we really only drink beer in this household” – the third crisis when you have a wonderful cellar and are serving Ethiopian doro wat (REALLY hot, if you don’t know it – I make it the proper way using an ethiopian cookbook by the women’s institute) and you want to serve beer and your guests want to drink a heavy red wine that you worry will get lost (maybe I need you to give me pairing recommendations here) – I’d go with a white if pushed, but maybe a cold pinot? Hm no idea, you tell me. So back to work – happy Friday

    • talkavino
      July 26, 2015 at 7:42 am

      Poli, you really should’ve participated in the challenge – you got lot’s wine crisis stories to share 🙂 With the corked wine, there is only one right etiquette – you inform whomever serves the wine that it is corked. There is nothing to be polite about – corked wine takes a lot away from the experience. I had been in the border-line situations many times, when I was not 100% positive the wine is corked – I still forced myself to talk to the server, and every time the new bottle of wine was so dramatically different, that I got nothing but thank you from the host. I think this subject might make it into a very interesting post 🙂

      • July 26, 2015 at 9:25 am

        thank you Anatoli – on the corked wine etiquette you are right it might be an interesting post in itself – the story evolved as follows – the host an nice gentleman who loves wine ordered a second bottle – the servers poured the second bottle into glasses already filled with wine from the previous bottle (this would not be acceptable in any European restaurants I have ever been to, but it was a very expensive (by US standards) restaurant in the US and so maybe it’s acceptable practice there? Anyhow Mr Poli and myself took a sniff and immediately realised it was corked not corked, where you are not sure, but CORKED….however, the wine was poured round the table. After some debate in our corner we decided to let it go. A colleague, however, said “ooh, this is really corked” at which point the host said, oh yes, I noticed that as well, but I didn’t want to say anything so as not to have the server bring the manager over and make waves…everyone finished their glasses apart from my colleague who handed her glass over the table to the host and said, well if you don’t mind it, then please do drink my glass too. So when I am in a restaurant by myself or good friends (I met our host that night so didn’t know him at all) – I always send the wine back if there is even a hint of something strange in it, however, in this situation with a self-declared wine expert I didn’t want him to lose face..but he handled it very well as you can see. So next time I will speak up too 🙂 thanks for commenting Anatoli (ps had a lovely Bandol in the Uk – we took it to a picknick and partnered it with the wrong foods, but it was still very nice – peppery

    • July 27, 2015 at 5:21 am

      I have enough of a wine snob reputation by now that everyone for whom I bring a bottle will cherish it instead of putting it out for general consumption — sometimes to the point of being ridiculous as they aren’t always precious bottles.

      • July 27, 2015 at 8:55 am

        🙂 – good for you – I generally hand it over to the host behind a closed door and tell them to drink it when the guests are gone 🙂 – just read your comments on selecting wines in the evening for guests or even just for an evening at home – I can relate to a) that one will be better with age b) saving for a very special occasion c) won’t have any bottles left if I drink this one now – I didn’t realize I could relate to so many crises….also I read about someone who goes to parties and then brings his own wine – fills it into a cheaper bottle and then drags it round with him all evening to make sure he has something nice to drink…the ultimate wine snob I guess – this is someone who brings wine for a bring your wine with you situation! My friends mostly like good wines so luckily it’s usually not a problem when people serve wine – that said there is the odd occasion I’ll bring a bottle to drink with me

        • talkavino
          July 27, 2015 at 10:04 pm

          I think what you are describing here is really an extreme… Bringing the bottle to the party for your own consumption? I would have a hard talk with such a guest…

        • July 28, 2015 at 1:23 am

          Hi Anatoli – agreed – but shows what extremes people apparently go to – this is an interesting article on the topic

      • talkavino
        July 27, 2015 at 10:04 pm

        Hmmm, yes, sounds like you developed quite a reputation… 🙂

  8. July 24, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    I’m impressed Anatoli… wasn’t sure how you were going to tackle this one! Interesting to get a glimpse into the workings of an oenophile’s mind. 🙂

    • talkavino
      July 26, 2015 at 7:34 am

      Thank you, Margot – yes, there is lots going in the oenophile’s mind 🙂

  9. July 27, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Very recognizable! The wine crises that happens most often are (1) cafés or bars that don’t have drinkable wine, (2) restaurants that serve clashing wines as part of a wine pairing, and (3) restaurants that do not even offer a wine pairing — which is a problem unless you are in a group of 6 or more.
    But I also recognize the (ridiculous) feeling of having a hard time deciding which bottle to open for a just a casual evening with my husband. Feels like a woman with all her clothes strewn around the room — “I’ve got nothing to wear”. And I have about 1,000 bottles to choose from (not all of them are different though). “I want to keep that one for a special occasion” or “That one will improve when I keep it a bit longer” or even worse “I’ll regret not having any more bottles of that one left later”.
    Oh and actually, now that I think of it, problem (1) above is even more of a problem when I’m at a friend’s house who is not a wine snob like us, and I have to pretend the plonk (s)he serves is somewhat drinkable… I fully realize the situation is uncomfortable for both of us. So sometimes I just bring my own wine, but that can be uncomfortable, too…

  1. July 28, 2015 at 8:02 am

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