05 March 2005

How I stopped being a wine snob

Some people take wine very seriously. The two television characters, Frasier Crane and his brother Niles, are stereotypical wine snobs, instinctively and immediately knowing the difference between a merlot and a shiraz upon entering a room with an uncorked bottle. I myself never went that far, partly because I hadn't the financial means to do so, but mostly because it seemed faintly ridiculous to put so much of one's energies into a mere beverage.

My first taste of wine came from a bottle of Mavrodaphne, a Greek red wine which my father would drink very occasionally when I was growing up. I hated it and vowed that, if all wine tasted like this, I would never drink it again. Mavrodaphne is an extremely sweet dessert wine which, to my young palate, resembled nothing other than Vicks Formula 44 cough syrup. Much later I would discover that Greek tastes in wine tend towards excessive sweetness and that not all wine is like this.

While travelling in Europe thirty years ago, I quickly discovered, especially in France, that wine is actually less expensive than the carbonated beverages I used to drink at the time in North America. Thus began my wine-bibbing days. I quickly learned that there were certain rules that went along with the enjoyment of wine. For example, white wine goes with seafood and poultry, and red wine with red meats. Since my earliest days I have loved seafood and chicken while merely tolerating beef and lamb and positively reviling pork. So white wine it would apparently have to be. For most of my subsequent adult life I would tell people, when asked, that I preferred white to red wine.

Then a few years ago it finally dawned on me that I actually like red wine better than white. Perhaps it had something to do with the discovery of the health benefits of red wine. Or it may have been related to my own idiosyncratic tastes. Whatever it was, I determined that, wine snobbery or no, I would go ahead and drink a Cabernet Sauvignon with salmon or chicken. Thus far no one has bothered to correct this incredible faux pas on my part. My conscience remains quite clear and I have no trouble sleeping at night despite this grave violation of social convention. I have yet to be ostracized by polite company. So pour me another glass. . . .


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