Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Suddenly everyone is a wine expert


Sunday dinner is normally a convivial, family affair in our household. With a pair of little mouths to feed, proceedings leading up to the event can be stressful but more often than not either my parents or Mrs FU's parents come over to help, to take up the slack whilst we dish up. Hot plates are placed down, knifes and forks both metal and plastic plunge forth, hush descends. This silence is always brief though. Fits of giggles will erupt from one corner, usually from my daughter as she spots her brother modelling some of his dinner on the end of his nose, crossing his eyes. More laughter follows, this time coming from the grandparents before wet wipes and mild reprimands are dished out to both young and old. However, a cheeky grin peering out from underneath a mop of curly hair often snuffs out the rebuke and then it's smiles all round. Normal service resumes and the business of eating goes on with small talk and endless questions beginning "why does..?" in between mouthfuls. Before long, empty, clean plates are taken away and stacked in the sink and to great applause, the pudding bowls appear shortly afterwards. The contents of which get demolished in double quick time. Then comes the best part as the kids slip off their chairs and charge into the other room. The adults are left to sit around the table and idly chat, pat their collective belly's and sip the last of the wine as the remnants of the weekend slowly fade into dusk with a crash, bang, wallop of building blocks echoing in the background.

A couple of Sunday's ago, something different happened.

My wife's parents were over this time and at the end of our meal, I asked my father-in-law what he thought of the wine we had been drinking, a Mistral Chardonnay Reserve 2009 from Naked Wines. "Very nice" he replied. I then told him that it came from a mixed case that Naked Wines had sent me to review and that I needed some opinions as I've never really done this sort of thing before (sure I've buggered about with wine tasting before but to concentrate for once and try to give an informed opinion, well that's a different matter.) It was a shot in the dark as he is normally a real ale man and by my reckoning knows just as much as I do. But then he did something I've never seen him do before. With a delicate swish of the hand, he brought the glass to his nose and then in one swift movement poured the wine into his mouth. "Yes, very nice in fact, surprisingly sharp towards the end and good length too". 'Length?' I thought to myself, creasing my forehead. But before I could respond with one raised, hesitant finger, my mother-in-law countered with "you know, it's got a slightly deeper yellow to the usual light straw" holding the glass behind one of my credit card statements. Where she got it from I don't know. I always make an effort to shred them as soon as they pop unwelcomed onto the welcome mat, usually still in the sealed envelope. My mouth dropped and again before I could utter a word of exasperation, Mrs FU finished the last of her glass, licked her lips and said "hmm lovely tropical notes, it sounds bizarre but I'm getting banana for some reason". This left me totally bamboozled. 'Tropical notes? Yellow straw? Length? LENGTH? Where are they getting this from?'

Desperate to join in but lacking confidence, I headed straight for the one phrase of wine terminology that I always keep in store in the ol' memory bank.

"Yeah and it's got great legs" I shouted, over egging a careful, almost clinical examination of my wine glass.

"That's just a myth Dan, wine legs or 'tears' as the French might say, don't really tell you anything about the wine itself", sang Mrs FU.

"They do! They indicate the quality of the wine. Good legs, good wine. And it's down to the sugar in the grapes and the glycerin and er the noble rot". All of this was plucked out from the nether recesses of my mind, especially the last bit.

"Yes, if a wine doesn't have legs, it's not worth having and the legs are there to tell you how oaky the barrels are and er butter, they put butter in Chardonnay you know, to make it taste er buttery, hence the legs. They are in actual fact big, streaky, buttery legs of fat!"

By this point, I had raised my voice a little too far towards the ceiling attracting the attention of the twins who came galloping back into the room to see what the fuss what was about. Silence descended with all eyes on my person. Heads, including the kids, shook from side to side. I'd been caught out. So, slowly but surely, I stood up and clasped my glass in my hand, walked calmly out of the room, grabbing a generic wine guide from our bookcase along the way and headed straight for the bathroom. I locked the door and stayed in there for well over an hour, perched on the toilet seat perusing the dog eared tome, flicking from page to page. "I've got 5 more bottles to review yet", I muttered to myself. "I better start getting to grips with this or I'm going to look really stupid."

Let the education commence.

4 comments:

Tom said...

Great story - but what was the wine like ?

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

oh... went to a wine tasting at a vineyard in French France once and turned my nose up slightly when offered a glass of something or other... the somellier turned to me and said... ' I think you would prefer a beer no?'

Food Urchin said...

Tom - to be honest the wine was just as the comments I gave in post, surprisingly sharp or acidic with lots of tropical flavours, I did actually hedge my bets saying there were 'herby' notes and everyone agreed. All in all a very nice chardonnay.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I'm rubbish tasting most wines. Normally I can just about discern whether it's pink or fizzy but now and again I taste one that I really love that I can tell exactly what the flavours are - oddly enough most recently with some English wine. If you stick to champagne you can't go far wrong...