Meet Axle, one of my three cats. Although he doesn't drink wine he does live in a place called Weardale, like me.
On one Saturday a month for the last six David and I have attended wine tasting evenings with a group of 11 locals. We were first invited by our neighbors who have been attending for a few years and because another couple had just quit the group they kindly saw fit to invite us along.
Our friends in the group assure us we are learning, even though it doesn’t seem so, not yet anyway. When the night begins you are eager to learn and your scribbled notes are coherent, your handwriting unyielding and legible. You taste a few white wines and then a few reds. As the hours pass discipline is sneaking out the door, your limbs have loosened and you realize that actually, the company, the conversation, the laughter – these are the treasures. And then, suddenly you realize that your notes are being scribbled on the host’s table and the dog begging beneath the table is actually licking in between your toes! (Perhaps an exaggeration…)
I have never actively tried to develop my palate, beyond cooking and trying different edible and drinkable substances. During one of the first tastings David was convinced he could taste cat urine in one of the wines. I quietly discouraged him from saying that out loud but he indeed did share and it turned out to be a sign of a certain white grape!
Due to the fact I am a novice my natural reaction is to sit back and listen, keeping my impressions to myself for the most part. I do regret this because as I loosen up as the night passes and the comments flow I am reminded that being open when you are inexperienced does enable the learning process and speed things along.
I will now share one of my crowning moments.
On this particular night the plans had changed. Usually one person in the group hosts the evening supplying the wine and food with a theme to the wine tasting that you try and guess throughout. The host for the night called in sick so there was quick scramble and we all were asked to bring a bottle of wine and something to eat and show up at the alternative location. I brought a bottle of Prosecco (one that I had been given at Christmas) and looked up what kinds of food this might be paired with because I had no idea. A pasta dish was hastily prepared.
All started well with an appetizer of cod roe on toasted baguette slices with a glass of our first wine. Since we usually start with a sparkling wine (Champagne or otherwise) it was decided my Prosecco would be second taste and I was assigned the duty of opening it. Most were settling at the table including myself. I stood up, removed the wire surrounding the cork and before I realized what happened the cork flew like a rocket at maximum speed across the room with the loud “POOF” you would expect. I was mortified. Face blood red. There was a brief silence and without being aware of my actions (David told me it appeared as if I had taken aim) I had turned to the left with the bottle in hand and suddenly the Prosecco, being determined to cause further embarrassment was spraying out in an arch and directly onto the head of a lady named Pru. The arched trajectory of the liquid reminded me of playing with a hosepipe on a scorching summer’s day. The trouble was I had bathed Pru in wine on a cold English winter’s night. She had arrived late after having a rushed and stressful day and sat down to what should have been an effortless and jolly evening. I then shampooed her hair in Prosecco.
I could not have been more humiliated. The good news, however, is that we were invited back. That could be, of course, just to see what I would do next.