As a wine geek myself, Cork Dork had high appeal for me!
Bianca, our Princeton-educated narrator, describes how she decided to transition out of her job as an editor for a tech publication, and into the whirlwind world of wine.
Lesson #1: You have to be obsessed to make is as a sommelier.
The comrades who Bianca aligned herself with live and breathe wine in the most literal sense. Their passion also comes with power, as sommeliers at restaurants can add a “0” or two to the end of the revenue that a restaurant generates. Their ability to get patrons to buy wine can mean the difference between a bistro operating in the red or in the black.
Being a novice, Bianca had to quickly learn to detect the nuanced aromas that wine gives off. When I smell the nose of a wine, I can pick out hints of blackberry, or tobacco — but nothing as specific as what sommeliers are able to tune into. For example, if I caught a whiff of something floral, I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it was jasmine or honeysuckle. Sommeliers however, often can make a fine-line judgment call like that. In fact, you can train your nose to detect those smells. Bianca would spend time smelling different wine aromas in an effort to commit them to memory and up her cork dork game.
It’s a fun ride to experience the world of wine through Bianca’s lens. It was also informative to learn about what distinguishes “good wine” from … how shall I say this … “gas station wine.” First, a definition. “Gas station wines” are those bottles that are around $5-$7 at your local Chevron, and taste pretty consistently like fermented grape juice.
For cheaper brands of wine that are mass produced, the goal is actually to make them taste the same. In the way Pepsi should taste like Pepsi, regardless of the year it was produced, Yellow Tail Merlot should always taste like the same Yellow Tail Merlot. Big brand wines are turned out in monstrous vats. Ingredients are added liberally if the taste has to be manipulated. If it needs more of an oak flavor, wood chips might get thrown in. There’s even a specific concentrate that can be added to give the grape juice brew the desired flavor profile.
Good wine, by contrast, is treated like an organic piece of art. No wood chips or concentrate gets added in. Instead, the wine is allowed to evolve in its own way. For this reason, the wines that a winery produces will often vary in flavor year to year because of the changing conditions of the weather and terroir.
This is a big part of why wine tasting is so much fun! Every year, a winery will have different wines to offer because the grapes harvested will be different.
This read is a wonderful escape for any wine enthusiast.