Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I finally like wine!

Let's acknowledge the truth- while it can add so much to a meal, the consumption and/or appreciation of wine is not a necessity here is the United States of America. A person can live his or her entire life without a drop and be just fine. If wine is not for you, I understand. It's expensive and- let's all be honest now- does not taste good at first. In fact, I would guess that the sommeliers with the most sensitive palates didn't like wine when they first began drinking it. How could they? Honestly, I did not like wine for probably 25 years of my life. However, as a trained chef, I felt it very important to develop a taste for it in order to go as far as I possibly could in my culinary experience.

Like chopsticks, appreciating wine takes practice. And (unlike chopsticks) a lot of money. For a long time, when I drank any kind of alcoholic beverage all I tasted was "burning." I started, as recommended, with cold whites. Riesling was immediately my favorite, and I ordered that a lot to begin with (I still like it). As they began to taste to sweet, I moved on to dryer whites and reds- I could tell my taste was shifting, but really, if I skipped a glass of wine my dinner wasn't missing anything. If I was honest, I still preferred a Pellegrino.

I didn't realize that I had truly begun to have good taste in wine until last June, at my sister's graduation party. I hesitantly chose a bottle of wine for the party of eight or so that were coming to dine with us, and was very proud when everyone raved over how good it was.

In Europe, wine consumption is very different. Allow me to share one of my favorite pictures from my time in Crete:

This girl was one of the cutest things I had ever seen- sitting on a bar stool at my sister's wedding reception, swinging her legs, swirling and sniffing the last few sips of her parents' glasses, and obviously getting a little tipsy. We all know that if this was the US, the authorities would have been notified and this girl would have been in foster care by the end of the night. Not here, though. They simply view wine differently than we do, and my little friend was learning to responsibly appreciate wine from a young age. (By the way, it's not like she drank every day. This was a wedding, and we were all celebrating).

Just as when I was in Tokyo I thought to myself, "I'm so glad I've learned to use chopsticks!" While I was in Crete I thought to myself, "I'm soooo glad I've learned to like wine!" Something there definitely would have been missing if I hadn't. I am glad I have finally gained a taste for wine in a way that enhances rather than overpowers my food experience. My bank account may not be, but I certainly am! ;)

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