|By André Karwath via Wikimedia Commons|
Not all questions have obvious answers. A couple of months ago I was browsing the wine section of a local grocery store and laughing as my four year old sang her Kidz Bopped version of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” All the other kids like my pumped up kicks. Better run. Better run. Don’t run with gum.
This terrified college aged looking boy approached me and asked if I knew what was a “good year for wine.”
His cart contained steak, flowers, Maxim, a bag of salad, a can of ‘gourmet’ oysters, Lindor truffles, and a variety pack of condoms. I felt comfortable assuming he was attempting to select wine in order to impress a date. The poor kid had sweat beading up on his forehead and wide, searching eyes. I figured he had chosen the most non-threatening individual in wine aisle and willed himself to approach me in act of valor born of sheer desperation.
I drink wine and occasionally go wine tasting but I don’t really know much about wine. I do, however, feel confident that wine, collectively, does not have good and bad years in same the way that the Giants baseball franchise or the Dow Jones industrial average does.
“Well,” I said, “I think what years are good and bad depend on the type of wine. What kind of wine are you interested in?”
“The red kind.”
This was a set back because a) I couldn’t tell you off the cuff what a good year was for a particular grape in a particular region or in any way provide this guy with a non-bullshit answer as to what specific vintage of red wine he should buy and b) “The red kind?” Seriously? I couldn’t even point him towards one of the wine stewards at that store because they’re huge wine snobs. If I sent them a lost little puppy who wanted to know about what a good year for the red kind of wine was they would give him monumental mojo killing side eye. He looked fragile enough already.
“Ok. I can give you some general pointers. What’s your price range? I know, for me, when I have to bring a bottle of wine someplace I shoot for under $15 and look at the “Food and Wine” magazine ratings below the bottle on the shelf. Usually if you spend $10 or so you’ve got a good shot at drinkable wine.”
“Thanks. I’ll do that. But can you just tell me what a good year is for wine?” He looked, if possible, even more nervous.
This was another set back. I tried to gracefully give him a hint to read the pretentious “the bouquet of earthy fruity floral notes goes well with artisanal foie gras” cards that are right by the bottles. I tried to suggest that if he spends $10 on a bottle he definitely won’t accidentally blind his date by serving them something infused with rubbing alcohol. I tried to imply that there isn’t really a blanket answer for a “good year for the red kind of wine.”
A more direct approach was in order but I didn’t really know how to take one. I couldn’t mortify him further by saying, “Look, I can’t help but notice from your cart and Ryan Lochte-esk attire that you’ve got a frat boy style romantic evening planned. I’m pretty sure your date doesn’t know what a good year for the red kind of wine is either. In your shoes I’d buy a couple of bottles of the $7.99 Korbel and sternly remind myself to behave in the least douchey, most gentlemanly fashion possible. Then you’re as good to go as you can be.” With my four year old in cart any frank discussion of the condoms was clearly out. But the steak seemed fair conversational game.
“When I have steak I enjoy this.” I gestured towards a bottle of discounted $6.97 Goats do Roam which, while hilariously named, was actually okay wine.
“Oh! Great! Thanks!” he examined the label visibly relaxing, “So to people in the know 2010 was a good year for wine.”
Sometimes it’s really hard to answer questions or even know what question you’re really being asked so I smiled and said,”Sure. It’s great.”