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Monday, May 12, 2008

AN ODE TO THE GRAPE!

I like wine. I can still remember the very first taste I had of it -- some home-made Italian brew. It was at the home of my friend's fiance. We were young kids then, not more than 18, and Junie was celebrating her up-and-coming marriage to an Italian boy. We were gathered at his home and his father served us all a small glass of his home-made red. It made me very dizzy and sick and I spent most of the evening lying on a bed recovering before I could go home. But that gave me the first taste of what would be my favorite drink.

After that we used to buy cheap raisin wine from the Italian bootleggers and drink it on the sly before going dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. Once I recall sneaking home late after one such wild night with my pals, scared in case my strict Baptist parents found out I'd been imbibing. I woke in the night feeling very ill and was too afraid to go downstairs to the bathroom so I stuck my head out the window and threw up. In the morning, when I stuck my head out the window again to get a breath of fresh air to clear my fuzzy brain, I noticed Dad down below examining something by the sidewalk. Later, I had a look myself and saw something red splattered on the cement. I freaked, thinking I'd puked up my guts, but realized afterwards it was just the wine. I learned to be more cautious after that!

Wine is the nectar of the gods -- namely Dionysos, who was the Greek god of wine (also called Bacchus by the Romans). Whether I'm enjoying a glass of Boutari red in Mykonos, Greece (above) a campari by the canal or a glass of pinot noir at a fine dining restaurant in Italy (below) I am very fond of wine. You'd think, though, that by now I'd be a connoissseur, but I'm not!
Recently I was invited to a media event, a wine-tasting put on by New Zealand wineries. That was an excellent experience and a chance to learn how to properly savour the grape. I went along with 3 friends who are wine writers, (one of them spent a number of years working in wineries in California). I did have the basics down, because a few years ago my Chilean friend taught me how to properly 'taste' wine. SNIFF. SIP. SWILL. SAVOUR and SPIT. But was I going to 'spit' all those delicious New Zealand wines? There were at least 45 breweries represented at the show. Each table had various samples of Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling, Chardonnay, Merlot. My god! I felt as though I was at a real Bacchanal! The only thing missing were the wild maenaeds dancing themselves into a frenzy. (There wasn't any dancing, just sipping). I made my way around the tables sniffing, sipping, swilling, savouring and occasionally spitting -- careful to rinse my mouth and glass with water after each taste. It was glorious! Never have I tasted so many delectable wines -- many of them more expensive than I would ever be able to afford to buy. But still, I don't feel like a connoisseur at all because I can't possibly keep the tastes, names, wineries, straight in my wine-addled brain.

The week before I'd been on a gift weekend to the Spinnaker's Gastro Brew Pub in Victoria. This included an eight course meal with beer and wine pairings. The sommelier carefully explained each of these and how they complimented the gourmet foods we were served.
I couldn't possible remember them all, but later I did buy a bottle of B.C. brew - -Averill Creek Pinot Noir (2005) to save for a special occasion. And I just got the menu with details of the wine/beer pairings and delectable food we had prepared especially by the chefs. It was positively erotic!
So let me raise my glass to all you wine imbibers and wine connnoisseurs. Sniff, sip, swill, savour...and enjoy!
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