Monday, January 13, 2014

Adventures in wine tasting and how it turns out I'm totally predictable

As I mentioned last week, I signed up for this HuffPo-certified wine club. The first thing they do in this club is send you mini bottles of wine. You taste those, and your reactions to them creates a taste profile that helps Lot18 send you wines you'll like. This weekend I got my tasting kit and learned a very important lesson:

Wine tasting is exactly like dating.

As a 27-and-a-half-year-old woman of the modern era with breasts and minimal shyness, I've had the opportunity to date a lot. I'm not one of these people who likes going on dates. I admire those people. I really do. I wish I could be like them. But for me, dates are all about anxiety. Will he like me? Will I like him? Will he like me but I don't like him and then I'll blow him off totally gracelessly and rack up even more bad romantic karma? Will I be honest, like everyone tells you to be, only to be known as a bitch forevermore (the guaranteed consequence of honesty, by the way. I've determined there are only two ways to tell someone you're not interested that will spare their feelings and yours: say you've decided to be exclusive with someone else, or just ignore them entirely and let them assume you died. Lying and disappearing may seem immature, because they are, but they're also the easiest and kindest way to go about things. No one wants to hear the truth. Anyone who says they do is lying. People want to hear they're great and that is all).

What got me thinking about all this, besides the fact that I'm a human being, was my tasting kit. Lot18 gives you six wines, two whites and four reds, along with basic tasting instructions (that are woefully incomplete), and a piece of paper to put your glasses on which makes it seem like they had some extra glossy card stock lying around because why. I was so excited to get deep into my nuanced reactions to each wine so as to create a specific profile for my taste buds and then receive wine each month catered to my very whims.

So you can imagine my disappointment when the only questions about the two white wines were: which did you like better? How much more, a lot or a little? And that was it. How are you supposed to tell anything about my tastes just from that??

Another disappointment was the wines themselves: Ten Sisters 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Finial 2011 Chardonnay from Sonoma. I get what they did here: gave me the two main families of white wine, buttery and tart. And while each wine did a fine job representing its typicity (meaning what wines of that grape and region tend to taste like), neither was particularly exciting. The Sauvignon Blanc had a mineral quality and tartness, but without the burst of grapefruit and green apple I expect, especially from Marlborough. The Chardonnay was pure buttered popcorn and baked red apple, which might be nice for a Chardonnay but just isn't for me. I didn't really like either wine, but didn't want to get sent a bunch of Chardonnay, so I said I liked the Sauvignon Blanc much better. Sort of like when a friend sets you up with an actress and a doctor, and you don't like either, but since everyone in LA loves to hate on actresses, you say prefer the doctor for future reference. But you sleep with the actress because, I mean, of course. Like I wasn't going to not drink the Chardonnay. There was perfectly good alcohol in there. End of the whites.

I moved on to the reds expecting more bland typicity and unrevealing questions. Voila 2009 Pinot Noir from California was next, and it had the basic earth and fruit balance of a California Pinot, some berries, fruitier than its European counterparts but still a bit savory. It was fine. And just as I started to worry that maybe it was me, maybe I was too picky, maybe I'd never find a wine I could truly love because I didn't love myself, I took a whiff of the Nebbiolo. And, as it turns out...

Everyone has a type.

Ordine di San Giuseppe 2011 Nebbiolo d'Alba is a star. Licorice and dirt and blackberry and leather and pepper and WOW. And I hadn't even tasted it. On the palate this wine was super tannic but still velvety and weird and wonderful. Now, here's the thing. I've tasted Nebbiolo maybe twice in my life. So even if this is typical, it's new to me. Here's the other thing: I don't care. This is exactly the kind of wine I like. Which made me realize that this, too, could be a basic, typical wine. But when you find your type, to you, it's new and electrifying, even if it's just like all the other wines you've tried or people you've dated because there's a reason you keep going back. It's chemical.

I go back and forth with online dating. I was off for about four months but I recently reactivated my profile. When you do this, all your old messages pop back up. Some of the users have since left the site, but if they're still on it, but some are still around, looking for love. I logged in and found most of the messages were from users who were no longer active. But there was one chain with a guy I'd been messaging back and forth with quite a bit, who I seem to have been pretty into. Too bad I left the site. It seems like we could have dated. But I'm not too worried about what might have been, because, you see, we did.

About a month after I left the world of internet love, I met this guy in real life. We dated for six weeks or so, and then just stopped calling each other. While we were perfect on paper, I think we both realized the spark wasn't there. That's how I felt, anyway. I have no idea why he just disappeared, the bastard. And I know he didn't just die because I ran into him since then. He was on a date. She looked a lot like me.

In our messages, this guy talks about his new favorite place in LA. We went there on our second date. We discuss our favorite books. We did it again in real life. I had no clue when we met or throughout the relationship that we'd had this correspondence. If he did, he didn't let on. Remember, my profile disappeared when I deactivated my account, so he wouldn't have had the pictures for reference anymore. But this wasn't fate. This was too banal for fate. This was just the inevitability of two people who were each others' types. When you find someone or something whose qualities you're predetermined to like, you're gonna like them, no matter how typical.

There were a couple other wines, Letterpress Red Blend (I think, this wine needs a far less confusing label) and Fortuna 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles. They were solid but nothing compared to the novel Nebbiolo. More typicity at work. I answered the shockingly few questions dutifully and received my profile.

The whites profile was dumb. I mean, I compared two wines I didn't like without ever being allowed to point out that I liked neither. So I clicked to the reds, and was embarrassed to find...

They nailed it.

I mean they just got me. I'm just as typical and predictable as these wines! In only a few questions, I managed to be pegged for my exact tastes. I love Tempranillos. Earthy wines are my fav. I was just as fated to love the wine that was perfect on paper for me as I was inevitably going to date that guy.

I ended up canceling my membership when I saw the wines they planned to send me. Until they expand their inventory, it seems they'll be sending more of a sampler than wines tailored to the members' tastes as promised. I know what I like. But I also know that the most important thing is to be surprised. That element was lacking in my autumn courtship and exploded from my glass of Nebbiolo. Surprise doesn't mean dating or drinking against type. It just means that even if something is perfect on paper, it needs an x factor to put it over the edge. The scent of licorice. The subtle kiss of leather. Or really good sex.

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