How many times does it have to happen? I’m the speaker at a wine dinner. A guy walks up and says, “Are you the guy hawking the wine at tonight’s dinner?”
Yeah, that would be me. I just drove from San Antonio to Austin to Dallas to sell you a bottle of wine. Because I live to sell wine. Screw the stories, the wine trail adventures, I just want to get all the money that you have in your pocket and suck it out of your wallet. That’s my m.o.
I've done hundreds of wine dinners and I often say I’ll never do another one. And then, just when I think I am out, they pull me back in. Actually it’s a good way to do a nice service for a restaurant, to meet people and to promote the wines, the blog, and the Italian culture. You know, keeping the world safe for Italian wine? And then you get that guy, and it’s usually a guy. Usually middle aged or older, upper income, white guys. You know the type? The kind that come out to stump the expert.
Usually there will be the question of aging or barrel or vintages. “I love the 1997 vintage, they made such opulent wines in Tuscany.” If I had a nickel for each time I heard that line I could make more money collecting from those jokers than the money I never make on this blog.
Or, “I don’t really think Italian wines are as good as French wines.” Or “I have a friend in Napa Valley who made a killing in the (submit _________ here) business. He makes a killer wine that only sells out of the winery for $150. He makes the wine by letting the grapes drip.” I kid you not. I am not making this stuff up.
So there we are tasting the red, a Valpolicella Classico Superiore, a ripasso method, and this fellow, the same one who thinks I schlep wine for a living, comes up to me and says "I don’t like this wine - it needs to breathe for a day before it will be any good.” A day? You think?
I let it go. It’s a wine dinner. He could be a distant in-law; I need to let it go. And so I do.
And then he makes another pass. “Hey not bad, you had 3 out of 4 wines that were pretty darn good.” I tell him, “Great, that’s a .750 batting average – all star stuff. Or better.” Trying to keep it light.
But he just can’t help himself. He’s from a privileged economic and social class and he thinks his opinions have that certain gravitas. So he lobs another ball over the strike zone. “But that red wine, do you think it will ever be drinkable?”
Actually everyone at the table was enjoying the wine until he so inhospitably served up a platter of doubt. The chef paired the wine with lamb and a fruity sauce and it was a brilliant pairing. And I'm not even into that kind of thing. But the wine and the food were singing. Big time.
I wanted him to go away now. But I took a swing. “Look, the whole thing about breathing is a myth. And a day for a wine to breathe will, in most cases, just result in a dead wine.”
“Bullshit,” he snorts.
“Excuse me? Do you want to tell the story?” At this point I am thoroughly fed up with this guy trying to act like an expert. It is clear that he drinks unwieldy wines too young and that has led him to believe that he needs to let a wine breathe for a day. I'm curious if he makes those same calculations with the women he tries to shag. I wonder how that's working out for him.
What can you do with someone who thinks they are the expert? Have they just spent three weeks tasting any number of wines from France and Italy, tasting with the great winemakers of Bordeaux and Italy? Who is more qualified?
I’m not saying I want to be known as the expert. But in this instance I am the pro in the room and it is my story and I’m the one the folks came to hear. I even feel bad having these thoughts, because they sound like nails on the chalkboard when I read them. But after thirty years, I have stories to tell. And the last thing I am in the mood for is to drive all day and have some knucklehead get up on the stage and spew foolish drivel. It cheapens the whole experience of the wine dinner. Like I said, it is an inhospitable act. It is rude. And it is inaccurate.
And this has been the dark side of the Italian wine business for as long as I can remember. So when I talk all rosy and poetic about the vineyards and the winemakers, and I do, and I mean it, just remember that I have to come back to the native land and deal with the infidels.
Pass the ripasso please.