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The Epiphany Moment when a Friend Finally Understands Wine

RODA wines

Over the past six months, I’ve been spending the majority of my Friday nights with a “new” friend of mine who is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. Tall, active and practical in mind, she values a night nibbling on a macrobiotic dinner followed by a short yoga session, well above a dinner spent at an exceptional five star restaurant with a wine list larger than the entire series of Tolkien novels combined. So when Friday night rolls around, and she asked me the big question, “what should we have for dinner?”, I get excited! Considering that I live with a man who wants on his tombstone “I lived by ham, and I died by ham”, I absolutely adore an evening where I can allow my internal vegetarian out of the bag to bask in fresh produce, tofu, tempeh and whatever else may constitute a new macrobiotic creation. It’s a night to purge my system of the gastly meat byproducts hardline vegetarians plug their noses at and an opportunity to simply sit and enjoy the company of a lovely friend.

Yet one cannot fully cleanse their body without a glass of wine, can they?! I need those fabulous red tannins to slowly ease their way into my blood system to protect my heart and cleanse the arteries ;-) Thankfully, M. agrees with me and has made sure to always provide me with the honors of opening a bottle of wine the minute I walk into the door. The quality of the wine, however, can range from divine to questionable. Considering that her husband only drinks watered down beer with a large dash of lemon Fanta (called a Clara in Spain), while she generally drinks tea, their wine stash sits on top of the refrigerator to slowly die a horrid heat and vibration induced death. Nasty image, isn’t it? So, I have opted to do my best, as a loving and considerate friend, to slowly work down their collection of Spanish red wines, all in desperate need to being enjoyed. In fact, I find our new Friday night custom rather fun and adventurous, as I never quite know if she’ll pull out a bottle of 2005 Abadia Crianza, yipes!, or a bottle of 2005 Muga Reserva, ahhhh, so good!

Last Friday night, however, she placed in front of me the infamous El Coto, known far and wide among Spanish wine lovers as an exceptional red Rioja. I, personally, would call it plonk, fit to be used only in my vinegar jar, but hey, that’s just me. So in honor of her generosity, while a bit fearful to offend her in her own home, I asked, “Hey M., I really appreciate you sharing your wines with me, but to be honest, that is the only wine I cannot palate. Would it be kosher by you if you pulled out a second bottle?” With a sweet and understanding smile on her face, she replied, “Absolutely!” Reaching high above the the refrigerator, she pulled out a 2004 Roda I from Rioja. This is a wine I adore, having tasted it several times over the past few months, and was absolutely giddy with excitement when she asked, “Is this okay?” in a wide-eyed and curious tone. “That will be more than fine. Actually, I’d say that would be perfect!”

Now mind you, Roda I with a baked white fish over a bed of polenta alongside a thinly sliced cabbage, onion, carrot and tomato salad is not the ideal combination, but I didn’t care. Seeing the bottle of Roda I next to the El Coto, I coyly opened both bottles and asked her if she wouldn’t mind doing a little experiment. “Sure, why not?” she replied.

Pouring her a glass of El Coto, she sipped it cautiously and commented that it appeared to be a “fine” wine, translating to “I have no idea what I’m supposed to look for, so I’ll tell you it’s fine so that I don’t feel like an idiot.” Handing her a glass of Roda I, she smelled it with her nose a few inches away from the glass, swirled the glass awkwardly, and then took a sip. A few seconds past until a large grin slowly appeared across her face, “Yummy!” Taking the glass away from her again, I handed her the El Coto and asked her to taste the wine a second time. Smelling, twirling, tasting, her nose immediately crumpled up like a pug dog, followed by a high pitched comment of, “Ahh, that tastes really thin and kind of empty.” For a burgeoning wine lover, I thought her comment was dead on. It is rather thin and hollow, but what was more inspiring wasn’t so much her comment, but her continual reach for the Roda I, rather than the El Coto, throughout dinner. For a woman that typically drinks no more than a half a glass over the course of the evening, I was astounded by her appreciation of the wine. She was hooked, and for the very first time, understood the difference between a quaffable wine and a wine you want to sip throughout the night.

Have you ever helped a friend turn the corner in appreciating wine? What about you? When did you first understand the difference between a fabulous wine and a drinkable wine?

Cheers,
Gabriella

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  • Anna

    I had a similar experience in Sweden. In Sweden it is extremly popular with bag in box wines. And my friends there always tells me that they taste exactly the same as in bottle……ha! So just to prove them wrong i bought the exact same wine, same vintage in bottle and bag-in-box and did a blind tasting with my family and some friends…. I had the exact same reaction as from your friend M…..After that experince i have never seen a bag-in- horror when i come home to see my friends. again…I don't know if they still keep it hidden away in the cupboard but at least i don't have to drink it.

  • http://www.excelwines.com/ Anna

    I had a similar experience in Sweden. In Sweden it is extremly popular with bag in box wines. And my friends there always tells me that they taste exactly the same as in bottle……ha! So just to prove them wrong i bought the exact same wine, same vintage in bottle and bag-in-box and did a blind tasting with my family and some friends…. I had the exact same reaction as from your friend M…..After that experince i have never seen a bag-in- horror when i come home to see my friends. again…I don’t know if they still keep it hidden away in the cupboard but at least i don’t have to drink it.

  • RichardA

    About four years ago, I started hanging around with a new group of guys. I was already friends with one of the guys in the group and he introduced me to the others. We met once a week to play card or board games. I always brought a bottle of wine or two with me to these weekly get togethers. Most everyone else drank beer or soda. But, as they tasted the wines I brought, they became intrigued. Soon enough, another guy started bringing wine too. Then another. Until almost every guy brought a bottle of wine with them each week. As their love for wine grew, we eventually decided to create a wine review blog, to talk about all the wines we were drinking. This was the Real World Winers blog. My friends contributed to this for nearly a year but then their interest (or really their desire to do the work for it) waned. I was left as the main contributor and eventually decided to start my own instead. But, we still meet almost every week and we still each bring wine. Their tastes have definitely changed over the last few years. One friend bought my old wine refrigerator, and now has more wine than will fit in it. All of these guys will continue to drink wine all their lives.

  • http://www.passionatefoodie.blogspot.com RichardA

    About four years ago, I started hanging around with a new group of guys. I was already friends with one of the guys in the group and he introduced me to the others. We met once a week to play card or board games. I always brought a bottle of wine or two with me to these weekly get togethers. Most everyone else drank beer or soda. But, as they tasted the wines I brought, they became intrigued. Soon enough, another guy started bringing wine too. Then another. Until almost every guy brought a bottle of wine with them each week.

    As their love for wine grew, we eventually decided to create a wine review blog, to talk about all the wines we were drinking. This was the Real World Winers blog. My friends contributed to this for nearly a year but then their interest (or really their desire to do the work for it) waned. I was left as the main contributor and eventually decided to start my own instead. But, we still meet almost every week and we still each bring wine. Their tastes have definitely changed over the last few years. One friend bought my old wine refrigerator, and now has more wine than will fit in it. All of these guys will continue to drink wine all their lives.

  • Bill

    My experience is somewhat analogous to Richard's. I became a serious wine drinker in 1982 after moving to the Twin Cities and rooming with a college buddy (Ross). Back in those days, we were the only ones in our group with a serious (or even moderate) wine jones. We started pulling people in by hosting dinners, parties and wine tastings. Our yearly German wine tasting, which lasted for 11 years, is the stuff of legend. During this period of time, I started to notice that instead of beer or spirits, my friends were now starting to bring wine to our get togethers. We're talking a span of over 20 years here, but the last holdouts finally came around over the past few years. Now, we're all drinking wine. For most of my friends, I don't know if I can say there was an epiphany, in the sense of the "eureka" moment. I just hammered away like the tide and eventually they all crumbled (or had their epiphanies while I wasn't looking) . Wine became (and still is) their beverage of choice. I couldn't be happier. Ok, I could be happier if they all decided to drink great wine. But any wine, even the El Coto, is better than no wine, yes? Or does your epiphany require the distinction between two wines as opposed to wine vs. spirits or beer? Anyway, that's my wine pied piper story, and I'm proud of it. :-)

  • Bill

    My experience is somewhat analogous to Richard’s. I became a serious wine drinker in 1982 after moving to the Twin Cities and rooming with a college buddy (Ross). Back in those days, we were the only ones in our group with a serious (or even moderate) wine jones. We started pulling people in by hosting dinners, parties and wine tastings. Our yearly German wine tasting, which lasted for 11 years, is the stuff of legend. During this period of time, I started to notice that instead of beer or spirits, my friends were now starting to bring wine to our get togethers. We’re talking a span of over 20 years here, but the last holdouts finally came around over the past few years. Now, we’re all drinking wine. For most of my friends, I don’t know if I can say there was an epiphany, in the sense of the “eureka” moment. I just hammered away like the tide and eventually they all crumbled (or had their epiphanies while I wasn’t looking) . Wine became (and still is) their beverage of choice. I couldn’t be happier. Ok, I could be happier if they all decided to drink great wine. But any wine, even the El Coto, is better than no wine, yes? Or does your epiphany require the distinction between two wines as opposed to wine vs. spirits or beer?

    Anyway, that’s my wine pied piper story, and I’m proud of it. :-)

  • Gabriella

    Thanks everyone for doing the nasty deed of converting people into wine lovers far and wide; however, Bill brought up a great point that I want to address: does your epiphany require the distinction between two wines as opposed to wine vs. spirits or beer? My official answer is, no, it doesn't. What I think is crucial is that people cultivate curiosity to seek difference. I could care less if your epiphany comes in wine, beer or spirits, as long as your cultivating a desire to explore, differentiate and communicate. Put two juice boxes in front of you and if you can articulately tell me why you like one over the other, then in my mind, you've succeeded. For someone to tell me that El Coto is fine because they don't want to "think" about other options, is unacceptable. However, if they can give me a solid reason why they love it, whether it be through their actions or words, than I'm happy. I hope that answers your question ;-)

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Thanks everyone for doing the nasty deed of converting people into wine lovers far and wide; however, Bill brought up a great point that I want to address: does your epiphany require the distinction between two wines as opposed to wine vs. spirits or beer? My official answer is, no, it doesn’t. What I think is crucial is that people cultivate curiosity to seek difference. I could care less if your epiphany comes in wine, beer or spirits, as long as your cultivating a desire to explore, differentiate and communicate. Put two juice boxes in front of you and if you can articulately tell me why you like one over the other, then in my mind, you’ve succeeded. For someone to tell me that El Coto is fine because they don’t want to “think” about other options, is unacceptable. However, if they can give me a solid reason why they love it, whether it be through their actions or words, than I’m happy. I hope that answers your question ;-)