When you work in a tasting room you meet all different kinds of people. Some of them are there just to drink and couldn’t care less what you are telling them about the wine. Then there are people who already know a lot, which are great and much more fun to talk to than the people who think that they know EVERYTHING. And then there are the people who really know nothing but are interested in learning. Those people are the best, and I mean that in a very sincere way. But in their quest to learn about wine they come up with some pretty interesting questions and as much as I appreciate them wanting to learn, I have to admit that some of them are really very funny.
Some of these questions are about the logistics of making wine: how is rose pink (limited skin contact), what does Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot mean (they are actually different types of grapes) and how do they clean the grapes (sorry team, they don’t). But mostly people focus on the tasting notes and what their implications are for the wine they are drinking.
It turns out there is a large contingent of people out there who are very much in the dark about what actually goes into wine. And because the tasting notes list out a whole range of flavors they have some very interesting ideas about what could actually be in that glass they are drinking. It seems that people are pretty willing to believe that any and all of the fruits listed are present in the wine. And while it is true that wine can be made out of fruit other than grapes, most of the wine you are going to be tasting in a tasting room will only actually contain grapes. It’s when the tasting notes go beyond the fruit character that people start to get a little confused. One of our wines had tasting notes that talked about notes of grilled meat, so the customer asked if, to achieve that quality, we grilled the meat over the barrels and let the juices drip in. We also had one note that talked about nuances of gun smoke in the wine, which many people were highly entertained by. For some reason pencil shavings gets a lot of giggles and claiming notes of petrol in our Albarino pretty much just makes people stare at me in disbelief. But my absolute favorite was the woman who was doing a tasting and was coming up to our Cabernet Sauvignon. She was reading the tasting notes before it was poured and stopped and said “Oh, I can’t have that. I am allergic to chocolate.” And no matter what we tried to explain to her or how many times we assured her there was no actual chocolate in the wine, that it was just a flavor note that someone had picked out, she refused to drink it, claiming “I don’t want to risk it.”
So, just to be clear, wine comes from grapes. There is a little bit of yeast in there, some sulfites as a preservative, and probably a bug or two for a little added protein. But that is the only fruit there is in there. You can drink it if you are a vegetarian, or allergic to chocolate, or leather, or cinnamon, or almonds. All of those flavors, that nuance and complexity in the wine comes from the fruit it self, the soil and climate it was grown in, the winemaking techniques used to make it and the way it was aged. Or you could also pretend that you don’t know any of that and have some fun entertaining the staff next time you go out wine tasting.