Wine is scarier than boobs? Yup. Read On…
Raise your hand if you’re a bit intimidated by wine. Yeah, I see you in the back with your hand barely at top-of-your-head level. It’s O.K. We’re all there or have been there.
Since I started CorkEnvy a little over a year ago, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are afraid of wine; like really afraid of wine. They’re afraid to buy it at a store, afraid to order it in a restaurant, afraid to open it, afraid to store it, afraid to talk about it, and afraid to drink it.
“Wine” writ large can be scary. There’s a ton of it out there. There are roughly 10,000 varieties of wine grapes in the world. There are approximately 20 million acres of vineyard worldwide. And it sometimes seems a Ph.D. in Linguistics, Viticulture, or International Law is required to interpret a wine label. I also find that “wine people” help perpetuate others’ fear of wine. They know a lot about wine (at least more than you) and don’t mind letting you (and everyone else within earshot) know that. They’re a bit stuffy and condescending and hate “having to” explain wine things to you:
“This wine is from here. Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t know about this small sub- sub- sub-appellation in Italy? It’s only the most important two acres of vineyard planted in the entire known universe. The grapes are watered with babies’ tears and harvested by angels. And it’s made by the descendents of Dionysus himself in the traditional “other worldly” fashion. Well, anyway…”
Not productive when you’re trying to convince others of the merits of something you’re passionate about. Or sell something. Or “help” others understand something. We call these people: well, we call them something not very nice that starts with “wine” and ends with a word that indicates they like to clean things. I try really hard not to come off that way myself for two reasons: 1) I generally think of myself as a helpful, respectful guy; and 2) I know firsthand that wine can be scary—just like boobs. Yeah, boobs…
Remember that first big date you had? Not your first date, but the first big date. You’d been out a few times—with or without friends—and your parents were at the point where they would let you go out by yourselves and extended your curfew by an hour. There was probably a movie or bowling or mini-golf before a “full-time fancy” dinner at Chili’s or TGI Fridays (or if you’re old enough to remember and/or were really “full-time fancy”—Bennigan’s!). Yeah, that date.
Even after all that activity (and a little bit of innocent, playful flirting), there was still time to cruise down to the local secluded spot where you could be alone for a few minutes (a park, an abandoned warehouse, behind the school—we all know the “spot”) before you had to speed home to make curfew. There you were in the car listening to some ‘romantic’ music (in my case anything from The Cure to Harry Connick, Jr.) and mugging it up a bit. It was going great, but there was a big ol’ elephant (or two, as it were) in the car with you—boobs. There had been a bit of clumsy, fully clothed fondling before, but this time it was heading toward “under the shirt, over the bra” territory. Like the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise, you were barreling warp-speed toward a world unknown…
Editorial note: I’m obviously setting this scene from the perspective of a teenage boy, but I’m guessing those of varying experience(s), orientation(s), or perspective(s) will get it, too. Everyone’s seen Grease or any John Hughes film, right?
Despite the high-waisted pants with inexplicably long tucked-in t-shirt fashion of the day, you somehow managed to get your whole arm crammed beneath that Structure Tee. It probably wasn’t pretty (unless pretty awkward counts). Neither one of you had any real idea how that whole situation should go. But you fumbled through it and lived to see the next Saturday night. And young love being what it is, you probably even moved on to a different object of affection and went through a similar (and only slightly less scary) scene.
My point is this: you kept putting yourself in that situation until it wasn’t as scary. You were no longer afraid of boobs (yours or someone else’s, depending on perspective). And you kept sampling until you figured out what you liked. You conquered your fear of boobs, but now you’re an adult and still afraid of wine? You won’t talk about it; you won’t try it; you won’t buy it, and you won’t drink it.
There’s only one conclusion to be drawn: wine is scarier than boobs.
But, like boobs, wine doesn’t have to be scary.
I will admit, there was a time when I was afraid of wine. I was afraid of wine for several reasons: 1) I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Moscato. I didn’t know “Old World” from “Star Wars;” 2) I hadn’t found the one bottle that convinced me that I could actually drink and enjoy wine outside of the occasional wedding or “full-time fancy” celebratory dinner (I didn’t particularly enjoy it on those occasions, either); 3) I hadn’t learned to appreciate wine; and 4) I had no experience with wine…yet.
Maybe I was lucky. I found (quite accidentally) a wine that set me on a path to seeking out other wines I would enjoy. That bottle also made me begin the process of learning to appreciate a wine once I found something I did like. So I started trying different wines. And I started learning about wine. Then I learned more. Then, I fell in love with wine. Yeah, me and wine could be the subject of a “Rom-Com” starring Russell Crowe, Jonathan Frakes, or the secret love child of Michael J. Fox and Jason Alexander as me; in her major motion picture debut, Lady Gaga would play the part of wine (naturally). Jordan Brady (who told the heartfelt story of a love affair between a man and music in Dill Scallion) would write and direct. Surely, it would be a box office smash…
I taste every wine at every opportunity—even wines that aren’t necessarily my “go-to” varietals or styles. Remember how you used to hate asparagus, but now you can’t get enough of it? Same thing with wine—it just takes the right one (or preparation/pairing in the case of asparagus, which I still don’t like, by the way).
Even being a “wine guy,” I will admit that I am sometimes still a bit intimidated (not afraid, mind you) in certain “wine circles”—not by the wine, but by the “circle” itself. But I swirl along and ask questions and listen intently. Even if I’m a bit intimidated, turns out the worst-case scenario is that I’m trying new wine(s) and meeting new people.
So how do you get over a fear of wine? Well, I would say facing your fear is the best way to go. My number one piece of advice for learning to appreciate wine: Drink wine. If you’re like most people, you just want to be able to figure out what wine(s) you can most consistently pour and like and maybe which wine(s) to serve with which food(s). The best way to do that is to taste. Where do you start? It doesn’t matter. Learning about wine (and what wines you enjoy) is more about persistence than anything else. And ask questions. Never be afraid to ask questions—the person you’re asking (even if he or she happens to fall into that snooty “wine people” category) was in the same boat as you at some point. People love to talk about themselves and things they know. So listen when others talk about wine—even if the person you’re listening to doesn’t seem to know as much as you; you never know what you’ll learn, even accidentally.
Yours truly will do everything possible to answer your wine-related questions without making you feel “wine dumb.” So if you have a wine question, send it my way, and I’ll do my best to answer it (or find an answer). And if you’re one who’s comfortable with both wine and boobs and don’t mind letting others know it, consider purchasing a CorkEnvy T-Shirt for yourself or a loved one. In the meantime, take every opportunity you have to try something new—whether it be a producer, varietal, style, or pairing. After all, trying something new worked out during that date, right?
Cheers from the Corkpit,