Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Wine ...

If Willie drank wine for pleasure instead of sipping bourbon and smoking from the bong, he would lament these words with his guitar.

Alder Yarrow at Vineography could not have said it any better. Men, Please Don't Be Wine Assholes. The blog gave me a chuckle, then brought forth repressed stories of my own experiences with the notorious WA.

Vineography directs us to a story from the United Kingdom, Men Pretend To Be Wine Buffs To Impress: new research shows that nearly 22 percent of men admit to embellishing their expertise about wine in order to impress their dates. Among 19 to 30 year-olds, that number jumps to 29%. And 35% of men refuse to let their partner choose wine in a restaurant because they do not trust them to make the appropriate choice, according to the British study. It's 2007 and we're supposed to be well beyond all that, but you'd never know it from these kinds of men.

In my experience you never know when the WA will strike. It might be a WA trying to impress his date in a tasting room or a wine newbie being trained in wine working environment who in three days becomes the wine expert and dismisses any woman's knowledge on the subject (especially the woman who trained him!).

In the tasting room environment I have seen more than my share of WAs, though, if anything, they give me great stories to share later. What I discovered is the majority of the WAs come into the winery after sitting in a bathtub filled with his favorite aftershave. So everyone in the tasting room, with no choice in the matter, gets to sample his "Ralph Lauren Polo Cabernet Reserve." Now, any wine aficionado knows that you either use little to zero fragrances on your body when tasting wine. This is out of respect to other wine tasters, of course.

Sometimes the WA travels in packs, dropping names and demanding special discounts or library wines not for sale. Sometimes the WA announces for all in the tasting room to hear that he "doesn't do white wines" and in his mind he thinks it means his tastebuds are superior to whites. Sometimes the WA states out loud that a wine others have been enjoying all day "is just overloaded with brett," meaning brettanomyces, when brett isn't even visible (Brettanomyces is a natural species of yeast that begins to make its presence known in red wines after fermentation. It is largely responsible for the earthy qualities long associated almost exclusively with European wines. A controversial little wild yeastie and while it can be considered faulty, others covet it and in small quanities it can compliment the flavors in wine.).

One of my favorite WA stories involves a man who walked into the tasting room with a woman who, it became obvious, knew nothing about wine. Also clear: this was their first date. So the WA couldn't resist the temptation to dazzle the "little lady" with his wine knowledge. The breadsticks we kept on the counter for cleansing the palette were not good enough for the WA; he asked if we had any bread instead to cleanse his palate. We didn't, so he went to his car and brought back his own bread along with a bread board and knife. Of course, he insisted on clean glasses with every wine he tasted instead of rinsing or leaving the leftover wine residue in the glass. I watched the show with fascination and the more he talked about wine, the less he really knew. In my opinion, if this woman is still seeing the WA and picked up any wine knowledge from him, all the WA did was create another WA -- a female one.

Which brings me to the point of the WA. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and gender. Women are not exempt from holding the title of WA. In my opinion, being a WA really is about our insecurities with wine, especially when we want to squash someone else's knowledge about the subject to shine the light on us. Somewhere along the line of wine conversations, I have no doubt of my own guilt.

I've been fortunate, though, that none of the important men in my life has been a WA, at least in my presence. There is mutual respect. My father fermented anything he could get his hands on, and he took me along in his fermenting adventures. I learned a great deal from him about fruit and chemistry; he never thought I was too young or too inexperienced or too "girly" to learn. From my significant relationships and from wine educators I have always received respect for my opinions and, most of all, for my sensory evaluations when ordering wine in a restaurant, blind tasting events or in a blending committee.

And that's just the thing: People who are secure in their wine knowledge always respect the opinions and judgments of others, because true wine aficionados are always ready to learn something new about wine. You never know who might teach you something new, or what the occasion might be. The best wine consumers I know -- the people with the most knowledge, the best palates, and the most respect for wine as well as for their companions -- never try to impress anyone. When you show off, you lose an opportunity to learn, and true wine aficionados would never miss one of those. But WAs always do.

The more I think about this, maybe a WA is just an asshole no matter what.

3 comments:

Sonadora said...

I don't know how they do it in Walla Walla, but I always picture these as men in pink Lacoste shirts with their collar popped up for that "perfect" asshole look. (Popped colors having been a huge trend here for a while). And I would venture to guess that people who act this way about wine are simply all around asshats, not just WAs! I had a better word for them, but we'll try to keep this as family friendly as possible!

winehiker said...

It's true that some people just want to hear the sound of their own pompous voices - but they're only impressing themselves in the short term. Self-respect earns community respect, and a gentleman - or a lady - can always be easily differentiated from a WA because of it. Good post, Catie.

Catie said...

I usually know when a WA walks in the door. Sometimes it's by their asshat or the neon light that blinks on and off on their forehead that reads, "Wine Asshole In the Building." heh.