The Wine [Documentary] Enthusiast

I’ve never liked bubbles. It all began when a blotchy pink toddler me was raced to the doctor to treat the particularly vicious consequences of a seemingly innocent bubble bath. And of course, rather than risk being called exclusive, I promptly spit out the fizzing glass of ginger ale my grandmother gave me to treat my first stomach flu. From then on I am proud to say I was bubble free.

For years it was easy to do because it flew so low on the radar. No one really has to know what your bubble habits are if you’re discreet. Just take showers and stick to water instead of soft drinks at restaurants and no one gets involved. Until college. Your party refreshment choices become awfully limited when you’re trying to avoid bubbles either directly in a neat drink or in its dirty chaser counterpart. My options were down to unadulterated hard liquor and boxed wine. Vodka intimidates the shit out of me. There’s something about that opening scene in Indiana Jones when Karen Allen pounds the vodka in front of hordes of frozen siberians that makes me feel permanently not up to the task.

And I’ve never liked wine either. Every sip of it makes me think of communion and dried wafers made of some unidentifiable substance that bridges the gap between paper and bread that so many kindergarteners have tried so valiantly to cross. Are they gluten free? It’s impossible to tell what they are once your mouth is consumed by the rancid grape wafer paste that sticks to your gums worse than peanut butter. So no matter how seductive the curve of the glass or the blood of the burgundy, all I saw was the spawn of dusty-lipped gallons of port that emerged from the depths of the altar guild cabinets every Sunday morning.

Yet, it was my only hope, my only gateway into the chic Sex and the City fantasy future for which college was mere pregame. I needed it. I needed that thing to indulge in every Friday night while trading sex stories and feminist critiques with my closest friends. I was already cultivating francophilia and reading award winning books and going to museums. The photograph was slowly developing, hinging on that final touch. What was my vice?

Enter: the wine documentary.

After exhausting the taste-tualization possibilities of every online restaurant menu in town, I was back on Netflix again, searching through the documentaries hoping I would find a way to satisfy my food fantasies. I quickly realized I had burned through most of the critically acclaimed options and began pouring further into the suggestions. There it was. Somm. Typographically interesting. Four letters. Innocent enough. I pressed play and set it on the counter as I set to mixing up a batch of my surrogate guilty pleasure, mini greek yogurt muffins.

The muffins turned out horrible. All eggy and wet, with just the hintiest whiff of the dark chocolate flavor from their title. No character. I, on the other hand, was a new woman staring dreamily at the flour covered counter as the credits rolled. Somm follows some mixed up male 20 somethings training for the test to become the elitist of the elite Master Sommeliers and take the wine world by storm. Even though it was not a revolution on the documentary scene, and none of the characters could be called particularly endearing, their stories included me, bubble-hating alcohol averse me, and exposed me to deepest pleasures of the world of wine, with only the slightest edge of snobbery. I was intoxicated by the grapes, the grapes, the grapes, the geography, the game faces, the restaurant interiors, the prestige. I contemplated becoming a Master Sommelier for myself for a moment, a fleeting moment, before the communion wine seeped back into my conscious.

This time, though, it wasn’t as jarring. This time, I was a wine documentary enthusiast. I pressed play and began my next indulgence, A Year in Burgundy. All of the intoxicating adoration of the ancient mystery that is souring grapes, none of the tastebud assault. The fantasy clarified. In the unfloured bits of kitchen counter, I saw my eyes glance knowingly across the table at my gorgeous gal pals as they sipped from their slender glasses and cut bits of steak. Nothing could stop me now.

Manhattan nightlife, beware.

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