Sunday, October 09, 2005

Adventures of a Tea Lover In Wine World.

Well maybe not plural but it does kind of roll off the tongue a bit better.

This last week has been spent working at a wine shop and while I was there I got to listen in while the owner was trying out some wines that various vendors brought in through out the day. Most of the conversation was of the typical sort when people taste wine with a sprinkling of insider gossip about other vendors and wineries. Lots of talk about three a legged dog as well for some reason.

The most entertaining part of the tasting was when they came across a wine that they didn't like. I had listened to them drink several good tasting wines while I was there and didn't really have any interest in trying any until they started to rip into one. I realized then that the way one really develops an experienced tasting palate is not by tasting good versions but rather tasting bad versions.

I've had lots of tea in my time but I still don't quite consider myself an expert. The first tea I liked was Earl Grey but at the time I didn't know anything about bergamot, it could have been a preservative for all I knew. I was never all that fond of straight black teas like orange pekoe and ironically thought at the time that Earl Grey tasted a bit more orange to me. Which was for a good reason once I found out what bergamot was and that Earl Grey was flavored with it. The point at which I started to develop a palate for tea was when I tried a Double Bergamot Earl Grey. Sounded good, I like the tea with it better than without so more of it must be even nicer tasting. Nope, I hated it, but came away from the experience with a much better understanding of what makes a good Earl Grey. For me it's a brisk black tea with very little of the bergamot flavoring.

All right, back to the wine. I had that whole internal conversation about Earl Grey while they tasted this uncouth specimen and was pleased to hear that I hadn't missed anything. The vendor left the bottle for her to try again after it had mellowed for a day or so. I guess you really have to make sure you hate something in the wine industry. They seemed to think that it was getting less disgusting as time went on so perhaps this wasn't too far fetched an idea. My first though was that they were suffering from wine goggles, but perhaps they knew better and by the next day it would merely rate an "eh" in taste. Unfortunately by the way they were talking about it I didn't think it was the type of wine you'd want to wake up next to in the morning.

My reason for being there was some data entry so I felt I would probably work faster if I listened in to help me stay awake. I do get board rather easily I must admit. For the last few months I've been working the temp scene and as a result I get to work in many places that I wouldn't normally have. This was one of them. I would probably never get hired to work in a place like this outside of temping but it was an experience I'd rather not have missed. Towards the end of the day I was invited over to join them in their tasting. Probably the nicest break I've ever had and well timed too. I wasn't quite at head bobbing yet but at least slightly cross eyed. Strange that a glass or so of wine would clear crossed eyes now that I think about it. I didn't get to try the foul wine and I though it might offend them if I asked, since the wines I did try were very good.

The next day the owner announced that when a day goes by without any sampling five o'clock signifies time to open up a bottle. It was five and she did. Guess what the first one was. That's right the one that was sitting in time out. She said that it smelled nicer. That was frightening, as I could smell a distinct nail polish scent coming off of mine and to hear that it was worse the day before, ouch. I had to agree that it was not a very nice wine but I enjoyed not liking it much more than I would have enjoyed tasting a good wine. I know that because a very nice wine followed it.

The knowledge that I didn't like a bad wine was very comforting and it reminded me of a wine tasting experience that my girlfriend brings up every time she tries a new wine that she likes.

We were still rather new at tasting and really didn't know what kind we liked. Our best way of describing the wines we liked was "kind of sweet." Poison to this particular winery representatives ears and it was visible on every pore of his face. We tried his wines enthusiastically expecting to have our knowledge expanded by this exposure to what "good wine" should taste like. His rudeness only added to our enthusiasm since there was no way I was going to put a penny is his pocket and thus would have no feelings of guilt at not buying any from him.

Did we like his wine? Let's just say there's probably a reason this particular memory just came back to me. This time when thinking back upon it I was armed with the knowledge that I don't like bad wine. How about that, bucko?

This is a place of tea though so I'd better finish on a tea note. A few weeks ago a fellow tea blogger friend of mine did a post called "Tea...It's the New Wine" where she was comparing the worlds of tea tasters and wine tasters. I couldn't help but think about that post this week and it would be a shame if I finished this one without mentioning it. Unfortunately it seems that the Pu-erh teas are the closest to a wine like product and I have yet to really enjoy one. I can't seem to get past the smell to actually taste one. I even have some sitting on my counter that a nice salesman gave me for free. What's wrong with me? Free!

How about you, do you have any tea snobbery stories? How about "bad tea" stories that helped you to find out what kind of tea you actually liked? Perhaps you'd like to share an epiphany you experienced while tasting tea, or wine, or even dirt when you fell off your bike in 2nd grade. Feel free. Free!

Now go have a cup.


At 10/10/2005 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Madam Potts said...

That's so cool... I was innocently reading along and I stumbled across the reference to my blog. For a fleeting moment, I felt like a celebrity - Thanks for the boost!

At 10/14/2005 09:55:00 AM, Anonymous Heather said...

Russian caravan tea... tasted like wet smoky socks. Never again.

I also agree with you on the Pu-erh teas. No luck with my taste buds.

Light teas work so much better with me: jasmine green, white tea, even non-teas: orange rooibos.

At 10/18/2005 02:54:00 PM, Blogger Lady Arden said...

Orange Roobios sounds good. Quick, someone go tell Adagio to make some!

Actually, I just wanted to share that I had a very enjoyable cup of wine tea once. I don't know exactly what flavored it so, but it was very much like wine. It was high quality tea, loose leaf and beautiful to see and it really tasted like a nice red wine.

Glad you're enjoying your temp jobs and enjoying different working environments. Keep up the entertaining posts!


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