February 18, 2008

Choosing the Red Wine

Posted in Dinner Reception, Food and Beverage at 4:48 pm by Jess

Sunday evening Jon and I nestled around the dining table at his parents with a homemade pasta bolognese and six bottles of red wine. Yep, six. One, two, three, four, five, six.

Actually, we were conducting an experiment. Our caterer is allowing us to choose and bring our own wines for dinner, WITHOUT the cork fee! Jon and I have already chosen the two white wines for our wedding reception, and now it was time to choose the red. Thus, with myself as the server (and DD), we held a “degustation à l’aveugle” or blind taste test.

The room was very quiet as the three of them went to work. They would sniff deeply into the glass, hold the glasses up to the hanging light over the table, jot notes, take a first, tentative sip, jot more notes, and finally a larger gulp to swirl around the mouth with a piece of baguette. At one point I reached over, grabbed Jon’s glass and took a sip. Instantly I frowned, and made the “this is horrid” face.  “Don’t do that!” he barked in all seriousness, “You’ll influence me!”

I also played along, with very small portions. When we had all tasted all six we shared our rankings and discussed them. This is definitely an exercise for Europeans. I am not sure that Americans could ever reach the level of nonchalance that I witnessed as Jon and his parents discussed each wine. Wine is their culture. Whether they notice it or not, they have been raised with a verbiage, knowledge, and jargon of wine that flows effortlessly – one that would usually make an American sound pretentious and silly. When they described their written notes I heard words like “notes,”  “color,” “roundness,” “maturity,” “integrity” and “length.”  One wine was deemed best initial taste, but did not have the longevity for a meal with filet de boeuf. The specificity with which they labeled each wine’s taste, and region, was astounding. They however did not seem find it at all surprising that they had all three, without sharing, noted red cherries in the same bottle. There was a slight dispute as to whether it was red cherries jam, or black cherries, which left me shaking my head in wonder. Meanwhile, my vocal notes read “flat and dirty socks” and “Disgusting, makes me cough,” and “nothing to say. boring.”   On the other hand, I was extremely proud to discover that I had picked the same top two, and same least favorite as Jon and his mother. Even more, I had written notes that were identical to some of their own, such as “Same taste as glass 1, but without the acidity.” I drink red wine maybe once every six months, and I drink wine period maybe once a month, so I was shocked and pleased to see how close my responses were to theirs. So, does that mean that all this “wine connoisseur” business is a bit of b.s.

Jon’s parents suggested that we choose and offer two reds at the dinner. This is a great idea, since we are also offering a very sweet and a very dry white at the beginning of the meal. This will give people a choice between reds, depending on their entrée of meat or fish. Generally one would drink white with a fish, but in Europe the white always comes first with the appetizer and then it is stopped. Then, red is eaten with the main course. In the end we chose an Argentinian Malbec, but it will possibly require bribing the owner of the small gas station where we found one bottle to buy a half dozen cases.  We also chose a Spanish Rioja that we found at the grocery store. Now it is just a matter of purchasing them and then figuring out where to store seventy bottles until June!



  1. rswb said,

    The boozy round-up from my wedding (60-odd guests):

    Sparkling wine: 19 bottles
    White wine: 3 bottles
    Red wine: 2 bottles
    Beer: 108 bottles.

    Everyone was very surprised. In my family and the bulk of my acquaintance, absolutely everyone prefers red wine over everything else. It was a warm evening, though, and we were at the beach, and weddings do go better with a few bubbles (either beery or champagney, it seems). I think the only people drinking red wine were my mother and one friend of mine.

  2. […] in Food and Beverage at 11:15 pm by Jess Where last I left off we had just downed six bottles of wine along with Pasta Bolognese (and Jon’s Vanilla Bean Cheesecake. Did I forget to mention that part last time? I meant to. […]

  3. g. said,

    Ooh i’m interested in knowing which Malbec and Rioja you guys ended up going with? I love Spanish Riojas and just started getting into Argentinian reds…

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