I’ve said it before. I’m lucky. The majority of my guests are spectacularly good. They come into the bar, grab a seat when possible and then go along with my suggestions for wine and food over the course of their visit. When possible, we’ll have a bit of a chat and catch up on what has been going on with each other since last we met.
Many of my guests are now treasured friends and I look forward to their visits. As with all things though, there is a dark side. The antithesis of the good guest and I had one in this past weekend.
It started the way these things often do, innocent enough. He strolled in, perusing the bottles on the back bar and asked me to choose a wine for him. I started him off with a fun, full-bodied Portuguese blend which he seemed to enjoy.
He was joined by one of my favorite guests and she also asked me to choose a wine for her. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, when halfway through his glass, this fellow declared that he wasnt going to “give me a top score” for the wine I had chosen for him. I said that was okay because i don’t care much about scores or ratings.
When he finished his glass, I poured the next logical progression and he balked a bit as I poured the wine into his glass. “I guess I don’t rate a fresh glass.” he declared. “No.”, I said, “You get a seasoned glass just like all the professionals.”
Now, it has to be said that BiBO is intended to be akin to going to a kitchen party at someone’s house. It’s a very small space and we have limited room for storage and therefore, a limited number of stems. So, with that said, the same glass is used over and again, just as most of us would do at home.
I realize that when people come out they may not want to be treated like they are at home and so I always give a fresh glass if a guest has had something wildly aromatic and I feel like the wines will somehow clash in the glass. Or, if a guest for some reason has been holding their glass by the bowl rather than the stem resulting in a filthy fingerprinted glass….or if they go from red to white. You get the picture. I always give a fresh glass when it’s appropriate but I logistically can’t offer a fresh glass for every wine even if I wanted to.
Back to our anti-hero. He finally seemed satisfied with what he was drinking when he summoned me down to his end of the bar and demanded that there were “no good wines under 14.5% alcohol by volume”. He insisted that I must agree with him and I let him know unequivocably that I couldn’t disagree more. He became quite flustered and insisted that I point out “even one decent wine under 14.5%”.
I began to go down the line-up of bottles on the back bar when I realized that there was just no arguing with or pleasing this particular guest. So, I dropped it, but I was irritated.
It’s people like him that give wine lovers a bad name. This guy has just enough knowledge about wine to be able to have a conversation about it and just enough knowledge to intimidate fledgling wine lovers. If you’ve read this blog before, you probably know that I stand firm on one rule of wine drinking and that’s this. If you like a wine, if you smell or taste a particular note in a wine; you can’t be wrong. Every person is the boss of their olfactory equipment and because of the nature of that equipment, we are all experts on the subject of what we perceive and what we like.
Besides, I know a few wine makers who would beg to differ on this 14.5% nonsense. First of all, there is a 1% margin of error (+ or -) allowed in Canada for alcohol by volume which must be displayed on every bottle. Secondly, most Champagne (which I think is pretty great) comes in well under 14.5% along with a veritable world of worthwhile and even great wines that don’t rise to that alcoholic standard.
What of Burgundy? Beaujolais? What about the reams of great Italian, French and Spanish wines and heck (!) wines from the world over, most of which arrive in the market at around 13%?
Finally, I have to bring up food pairing. The big bruisers that come in over 14% are notoriously difficult to pair well with food. They are so puffed up and impressed with themselves that any subtlety in the food is bulldozed by their huge personalities.
This is not to say that there aren’t some very wonderful wines weighing in over 14.5% Think of the big Rhone Reds and California Zinfandels. Think about the big Bordeaux and Super Tuscans and, well…the list goes on.
The point is this. The more rules we create for ourselves like,”I only drink reds.” or,”Oh! I never drink Merlot.” or, “There are no great wines under 14.5%”, the more we rob ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy some of the truly great wines produced all over this beautiful old world.