I love wine.
I love everything about it. I love the taste, I love the tradition, I love the pageantry, I love the warm sensation of the first sip and I love standing in a vineyard looking at grapes, knowing their amazing potential. I love wine so much, attendees of my birthday party last night left me with 20 bottles to enjoy in the future,
What this book taught me? I don't know shit about wine.
Let's walk it back for a second. I probably know more about wine than the average consumer. I've interviewed several winemakers, I've tasted wine in Sonoma and Yakima and Greece. But, wine is so much bigger than what most of us even care to explore. This book reminded me of that - and, instead of being intimidated, it made me really excited about what's out there.
Bianca Bosker was a tech journalist whose interest in wine was piqued not by the grocery store wines most of us drink every day, but by the high-stakes world of wine that most of us cannot even imagine. These are people who don't brush their teeth and don't drink coffee for fear of it altering their sensitive palate. These are people who LICK ROCKS in New York City, just to expose themselves to more flavors. These are people who describe a good wine as "hitting you in the chest with a harpoon" - and if it's not that experience, they don't want it.
Bosker went headlong into this world, working her way from being a "cellar rat" in one of NYC's finest restaurants to studying for the test to become a certified sommelier. She explores the past (like, the Plato/Aristotle past) and even maps her own brain to find how it reacts to the wine she drinks. It's fascinating, well-written and an eye-opening jaunt through a world most of us will never experience for ourselves.
I read about grapes I've never heard of and also got a great lesson into how to really taste wine. Not "is this good or bad" - but, what is your mouth telling you that can reveal a wine's alcohol content, structure and origin. I sipped a $10/bottle Washington Syrah while I read and felt woefully inadequate. But, this isn't a book designed to make us feel unsophisticated.
See, that's my kind of sommelier. Bosker introduces Grieco, the man behind some really badass wine bars, to show the counter to the pomp and circumstance of the wine experience. While much of the book exposes the obsessive traditions associated with the world of high-end wine, Bosker doesn't try to convince us that there's a right way to drink wine. In fact, she scoffs at the way the verbiage of wine tasting has become homogenized to the point tasters are often just repeating words they know are supposed to be associated with a specific wine, even if they're not tasting those flavors themselves.
She does, however, want you to look beyond the world of Sutter Home and Menage a Trois (the wine, not the act. You know.) You may like the taste of mass produced wine, but isn't it better to experience a wine that tells a story? Totally. Even if it gives your palate a workout.
I fell in love with a wine like this. While tasting wine near Lake Chelan, Washington last year, I tried a Cab from a vineyard that had been in the midst of a wildfire a few years before. Wildfire smoke sank over the vines for weeks. The result? A wine they cannot replicate, with a smoky, campfire feel. I bought it immediately. While I was tasting, a group of young women came in on a bachelorette party wine tour. They cringed at the taste of the Fira, saying it was too strong. They wanted to get drunk off some classic Chardonnay! Wrong? No. You like what you like. But boring, for sure.
Point is, this book doesn't to make you feel bad about enjoying a fruit bomb every now and then. Sometimes, you just want the mega purple-infused sure thing. But, it does push you to look beyond that and get a little adventurous from time to time. Spend a little money, trust the sommelier and lick a few rocks now and then to give your tongue a little workout.
On second thought, don't lick the rocks. Leave that to the experts.