So there it is, the dirty secret that sommeliers don’t ever want to talk about in their elevated discourses on region, vintage, and method of production: Wine will get you drunk. And easily, too! The average alcohol content in a dry red wine has got to be around 13.5-14% these days, and is steadily on the rise. Compare that to perhaps 5% to 6% in your average microbrew, and it makes you wonder why frat boys aren’t chugging Pinot Noir through funnels. It would certainly match the togas better.
Beyond the intoxicating appeal of wine, the sensory experience is amazing! Spend some time with a glass of wine and you’ll (on any given day) find rich, dark blackberries, black plums, red raspberries, tart cherries, subtle cola notes, cedar, spice box, incense, leather, horse mane, butter, lemons, limes, peaches, apricots, grapefruit, kiwi, passion fruit, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. All of these aromas and individual experiences are waiting in a glass of wine – and that’s before you even taste it! People who are into wine – call them oenophiles, wine nerds, cork dorks, or whatever else you may choose – are obsessed with these things; the subtle differences between perceived citrus fruits and tropical fruits intrigue and delight.
Because no two people’s nose is exactly alike, controversy and dischord can permeate a tasting group, destroying friendships and dividing communities. This is fine. Anything that riles passion in the human heart enough to draw people together will inevitably tear some people apart.
I digress. Wine can be a captivating experience, but you have to be willing to be wrong, willing to be clueless, and willing to accept that with time your tastes and your preferences will change and evolve, and that you will inevitably look back at your previous wine choices – your ideals of oenology, your idols of viticulture, your concept of what a great wine is – and say to yourself ‘what in the world was I thinking?’ This is right, though it can be a particularly expensive problem if you’re of a wine collecting mindset.
The point of wine, at its heart, is to engage in your senses, to connect with your body, and to embark upon a journey that will never end, an experiential odyssey that you’ll carry with you for your entire life. Through wine, a little bit of France, of Italy, of South Africa and of Walla Walla can travel to you; you, the winemaker, and everyone else who ever tries a wine can learn about the world, can grow as people, and can experience life in a mysterious and dynamic way that is never quite the same from person to person but is nevertheless part of the greater shared existence that makes us all human.
And, of course, you can get lit in the best possible way: Like a classy person.