Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How my wine knowledge led to sex (but not for me)

"Dial a wine snob. Your question please?"
"Blake, you gotta help me. I'm calling from ABC. I need a wine. I'm having dinner with (woman's name) and she likes Merlot."

The caller was a longtime friend who has never been an enophile and is now, I thought, exclusively a white wine drinker. But sex is a powerful motivator. My friend, recently separated, hasn't been in the dating game for a while, and consequently is ... well, you get the picture.

The first thing I said was, "Merlot? Are you sure you want to have sex with this woman?" He was. So I asked him to read me the labels of the wines in the Merlot aisle.

This made me feel like the wine snob I am. ABC is a chain store in Florida, and not a particularly good one for wine. I once stopped in an ABC in Apopka to get a bottle to go with pork ribs and was paralyzed by indecision for nearly 20 minutes because the whole store had nothing I wanted to drink. I ended up with a mass-produced Rioja crianza which was nearly flavorless but inoffensive. But I didn't need to get laid.

I told my friend the best thing he could do was go to a real wine shop, but that wasn't going to happen this night. My friend was in trouble. The labels I knew were the usual suspects of uninteresting mass-produced juice; the labels I didn't know, and there were many, had cutesy names that didn't inspire confidence.

I was probably overthinking it. I enjoy a good Merlot. But if I were asked one type of wine I like, especially if I were sending someone else shopping, "Merlot" wouldn't come close to my lips: not the word or the wine a non-enophile friend like mine would come back with.

But this wine wasn't for me: It was for a woman who said she likes Merlot. If the store had had Duckhorn, I would have said, "Get that" and been done with it. Or Shafer (spending a little money on a precoital date is a time-honored strategy). There are a few others in that group. But ABC didn't have a Merlot over $20, which probably represents what people who go to buy Merlot expect from ABC.

I could have told him to just get the most expensive one, which was Sterling. The giant whisky company Diageo sold Sterling to Treasury Wine Estates last year. It's a corporate product, but in the year 2016 corporate products are competent. She'd probably like it.

Instead, I sent him to look for the Bordeaux aisle. I told him that not many people realize Merlot, not Cabernet Sauvignon, is the main grape of Bordeaux. I thought bringing a French wine might seem a little classier, especially to a non-enophile. And I thought, correctly it turns out, ABC might have better Bordeaux than American Merlot.

He was appalled by how expensive their Bordeaux could be: "I don't know Blake, $79.99? $79.99?" I asked his price range: how much was he willing to pay to get laid. I didn't point out how much sex costs on the streets because I wouldn't have that knowledge, would I? He said his budget was about $20. My friend isn't poor, but I worked with that: I said, "tell me the Bordeaux they have between $20 and $30." Like a professional sommelier, I instantly upsold him.

He found a 2010 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Château La Bonnelle, for $24.99. (You can buy it here.) That was the one. He read off a couple cheaper options, including a 2012 Fronsac (I forget the producer) for $14.99.

I explained that Saint-Émilion is one of the best regions in Bordeaux. That a fine Bordeaux wine improves with a little age and while there may be no preference between a 1990 and a 1992 (pipe down, vintage chart wielders), the difference between a 4-year-old and 6-year-old is immense, like the difference in children's development between a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. He has two sons. "I get it," he said.

I went through how to pronounce it with him, told him to decant it if he has one or pour it into glassware early if he doesn't. I told him it would be drier than she was accustomed to and possibly a little more tannic, but that it would change a lot with air and they should pay attention to that. I told him it was a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with perhaps a little Cabernet Franc. I don't know the actual blend, but I was on a cell phone with a horny friend in a liquor store, so cut me a break. And I told him that if she didn't like it, he could say he called his friend the "wine expert" and this is what he recommended, so blame me and fussy wine snobs. She could at least give him credit for trying.

Well, she loved it. He loved it and said it didn't give him a headache like most red wines.

My ongoing rant as he read off the labels ("Crap! Corporate crap! You don't want to bring a wine with a stupid name like that! This is all crap!") had sunk in so he told me he would buy his next wine at a shop a mutual friend recommended.

Moreover, he said he would buy Bordeaux. Look at that! I made a Bordeaux drinker! I didn't set out to do so, but this is exactly how these things happen.

But the best news is ... well, I'll never tell.

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Aaron said...

"He loved it and said it didn't give him a headache like most red wines."

Yea, this is so true when people actually drink some wine not made by big corporate folks that are full of chemical manipulations.

Bob Henry said...


See these articles for suspected causes for "why" red wine gives some drinkers headaches.

("Spoiler alert": it ain't sulfites.)

~~ Bob

From The Wall Street Journal
(April 30, 2009):

“Why Do I Get Headaches From Wine?”


By Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher
Adapted from “Tastings” Column

-- and --

From The Wall Street Journal “Off-Duty” Section
(March 14-15, 2015, Page D7):

“Wine Headache?
Chances Are It’s Not the Sulfite”


By Lettie Teague
“On Wine” Column

-- and --

From the San Francisco Chronicle “Food & Wine” Section
(August 22, 2008, Page D1ff):

“Reconsidering sulfites;
Progressive vintners weigh the pros and cons of the controversial winemaking tool.”


By Wolfgang M. Weber
Special to The Chronicle