I attended a wine pairing class at a fancy marketplace known for their gourmet shopping selections. “Hoity-toity” might be the expression used to describe it. My initial feeling was, I will probably forget everything I sat through in the class by the time I get to my car in the parking lot. The class was being led by a bon-fide sommelier (some-mah-YAY). These individuals really know their subject. Apparently only eight percent of students who seek the accolade ever achieve it.
Yes, my eyes were darting around, assessing the crowd and the classy surroundings with a smug smirk on my face. Very polite people in black aprons were offering me an assortment of hors d’oeuvres on trays. They held a tray with one hand while the other was behind their back. They bent slightly forward in a posture of gracefulness. The environment was a studio kitchen. It was lit well with warm task lighting directly over the counter tops. Stainless-steel, state of the art appliances gleamed while set within blonde wood. Very chic.
The place was buzzing with expectation. I sensed a few erudite presumptions on the faces from those hoping to confirm their subjective guessing into actual knowledge. After all, one does not often meet a real sommelier. One of them is about to appear and at last provide the affirmative truth whether to choose red or white. “Red or White?” That is a question often answered based on whether the host will be serving meat, poultry, or fish. See, I know this stuff already! I’ll just help myself to more free crackers.
A Bumbling Guru?
The moment has arrived. Our wine pairing grape master guru for the evening is about to appear and enlighten us. There was a brief welcoming by the hosting establishment. As the announcements were made, I imagined a gentleman butler type. His hair would be grey on the sides. He would have a long nose, lifted and airy eyebrows. Maybe he would have a white towel draped over one arm. Maybe he would speak academically.
Applause broke my imagining. A man bounced, more like bumbled into view, waving his arms wildly. His eyes were squint and his face smiling abundantly. His hair was shoulder length and curly. He wore a vertically striped shirt with an open collar tucked somewhat into a pair of blue jeans. In fact, he kind of looked like a mix of Columbo and Mac Davis! (Google him).
For Five Bucks, I’ll Blow Your Mind.
Like a comedian, he got started right away. He said he gets hit up all the time by friends and others for consultation. “What should I serve with my Duck l’Orange?” He said he would quickly advise on getting a cheap five-dollar bottle table wine from the local market. The crowd either laughed or gasped. I leaned forward. This was going to be good.
His point was that the duck should be the star of the evening, not the wine. A fine bottle should be simply enjoyed with lite fare, making the wine more important. He continued his main point about de-mystifying the world of wine and that the value of a wine is not about the price placed upon it. The world of wine pairing becomes more enjoyable once the snobbery is removed. Not that the pleasure should descend from the enjoyment of sophistication, but rather the pleasure and enjoyment should be assessable. Exclusive, sure, exclusionary, no.
Irreverent Memorable Madness!
We went on to learn more about wine pairing terminology. Most important and enlightening to me was busting the myth about red or white. We learned that the general rule of thumb is not always a hard fact. Sometimes, a red grenache pairs well with a blue cheese, thus violating the white goes with cheese rule. A pinot grigio can be paired with a prosciutto, violating the red goes with meat rule. Enjoying wine was less about the rules and terms, but more about the exploration and playfulness of tastes and discoveries. Yes, the rules and terms mattered, but often to support the creativity.
My original thought was that I would forget everything from this class before I met my car in the parking lot. Instead, I was having an epiphany. The class ended up becoming one of the most enlightening and memorable moments of my life. It changed my view of so much; such as they way I look at art, taste food, smell a flower, listen to music, acknowledge others, or linger with a simple pleasure.
Part Two – Next Month
I ask myself the question if the appreciation of things is a responsibility to life?
The banner photo is by Camille Brodard. Visit her website at Kmile Design Studio Boutique