In the last year or so, wine has become a semi-hobby of mine. I went to the Champagne region of France last year and tasted a multitude of sparkling wines, but I had no idea what I was tasting or why. It was then that I went on this journey to become a “wine guy” as I called it. I just wanted to taste wine, appreciate it, and understand what it is telling me. I even read some books in pursuit of this endeavor; some of them gave me a step in the right direction, but there was still a lot to cover. The biggest revelation, wine wise, for me was when I went to Napa on my honeymoon. We tried so many different wines that helped sort out my palate. According to some, wine is the most complicated liquid on planet earth next to blood. Whether or not that’s true isn’t the point; the real reason someone would say that is to be semi-hyperbolic in saying: wine can be really complicated and you probably don’t understand.
Enter Bianca Bosker. She quit her tech journalist job and decided to become an entry level sommelier in a year. A sommelier (or “somm” for short) is someone who essentially is a professional wine taster. They usually work in restaurants and recommend wines from a large wine list for rich patrons. The test to become even an entry level somm is rigorous and includes three separate sections: theory, blind tasting, and serving. As Bosker says it, people usually spend three years minimum and many more years in the restaurant industry before they attempt the test.
And thus, the makings of a book about wine are in full swing. This was a pretty interesting book. There were some sections that were more mundane then others, but overall it was captivating. I really enjoyed reading about when Bosker shadowed a professional somm, or a Master Sommelier. She talked about how rich New York billion and millionaires would blow through thousands of dollars of wine a night, which bottles they chose and why, among other interesting anecdotes. This part of wine is confusing and stupefying to me.
I also enjoyed reading some of her conclusions. Notice that the title suggests she became a better taster, not a better wine drinker. The essential element to enjoy the subtleties of wine tasting is to understand the smell of crushed lavender, or dried lavender, or real lavender. To distinguish these smells from one another is about tasting; not about drinking wine. And at the end of the day, we can and should appreciate food and drink for their tastes, and we get better at tasting by getting better at smelling.
Interesting book, although I didn’t care for the occasional profanity.