Wine and Cheese Party: A Non-Wine Drinker’s Perspective

Witches Brew Spiced Red - December 2012

Witches Brew Spiced Red – December 2012

My approach to wine has traditionally been one of avoidance. But it’s an interest others have that fascinates me … Wine is serious business or hobby. Make no mistake about it.

My introduction to wine in my early 20s was:  Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill followed by White Zinfandel in my late 20s. I don’t have any recollection of wine moments in my 30s, maybe the discovery of Riesling. And in my early 40s I’ve discovered Moscato, which is sweet and doesn’t have that sharp taste that makes me chose other libations.

Every year my girlfriend hosts a wine party. She spends a couple of days preparing savory dishes, selecting the right cheese, fruit, nuts and snacks, and stocking up on a variety of wines and beers. She has something for everyone even someone like me who isn’t a wine lover. It’s not meant to be pretentious, but it definitely can be involved and intense.

The invite encourages guests to bring their favorite bottle to drink and share, “Whether it’s an old favorite or a new discovery … We would love sip a glass with you.”

I picked 3 bottles of Moscato to contribute … Oh and I should mention that I couldn’t tell a good wine from a bad one, meaning whatever has a sale sign on it at the grocery store would work for me. Recommendation:  Don’t leave selection to me because I’ll probably choose a dessert wine to go with dinner.

The fun of attending such a party, for me, is in watching the evening progress. At the beginning of the night there is a lot of talk about wine:  making, tasting, selecting and favorites. Talk about vineyards and wine tours. It’s incredible how much I don’t know. Then it moves into general topics:  family, community, work, and world. By the end of the night it’s laughter about anything and everything.

Now back to the wine lessons I learned.

Put a Cork In It

Put a Cork In It

Screw Tops vs. Corked

I agonized over what wine to pick. Worried that buying a wine with a screw cap would immediately single me out as wine challenged. But one of my first conversations of the night alleviated my fears. Apparently screw caps are no longer the signifier of poor quality. I’m told by one winey that it’s actually the opposite. As cork becomes increasingly difficult to come by and manufacturers want to be environmentally conscience, we see a shift in quality wines turning to this practice of bottling. Who knew?

Put a Cork in It

And speaking of corks … there’s a reason people sniff the cork. I learned this over dinner in the days leading up to the event. A coworker used to be a wine buyer so while we were entertaining clients he displayed his wine skills for us. And the fun fact of the evening was:  if the corks smells of mold it means moisture got into the bottle which could compromise the wine. Good to know that fermented grapes can be moldy …

A Breath of Fresh Air

The other thing I heard as the night progressed … some wines need to breathe. So they get poured in decanters in order to “open up”. My palate wouldn’t know the difference as it’s not discriminating or discerning. But I watched as friends poured glasses and sipped only to say, “This one needs to breathe.” I was impressed that one drop touching the tongue could give so much information.

I sampled a few things … I didn’t drink enough to ever have two full glasses. But I found a red wine that I would drink again:  Witches Brew Spiced Red. Needless to say I had a good time.

And, now that I have exposed my wine ignorance … my lessons don’t have to end. If you have a favorite that you’d like to recommend please leave it in the comments. Or if you have a fun fact about wine I would love to hear it. Gearing up for next year’s party … I could be a connoisseur yet.