Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Yes, I WOULD Like Some Cheese with my Wine

Mercredi, 28 août.

You know that snarky expression -- would you like some cheese with that whine? Well now, it has a whole different meaning to me! And the answer is a very resounding YES.

As part of my French Civilization course, we went to a wine tasting today. I don't want to ruffle feathers or make anyone die of shock, but let me just say ... I am now officially NOT a fan of vin. (<-- Rhyming very much intentional.) First of all, I don't really like wine, so the whole idea of tasting loads of it wasn't exactly tantalizing. Still, I figured that it would be a fun time and would maybe introduce me to some varieties and flavors that I hadn't known existed!

Second, I was absolutely starving by the time we arrived at the Maison des vins du Languedoc, the site of lesson and wine tasting. BUT THERE WERE NO SNACKS. None. Not even a little plate of Saltines to help cleanse the palate! (Sorry, but I'm allowed to say things like "cleanse the palate" because I'm French now.) It was so bad that at one point towards the end, I saw a box of rocks, thought it was a bread bowl, and started to drool.

No snacks. Only tons and tons of wine!
Third, there was a frustrating realisation that occured when we all realized that "wine tasting" did not imply wandering around a vineyard, casually tasting wine. No. "Wine tasting" meant sitting at desks in an overly air-conditioned room at the Maison des vins, listening to a friendly but perhaps overly enthusiastic oenologue, or wine expert, talking about, well... wine.

Even the tasting itself was exhausting because you don't just taste wine. You look at it, analyzing the wine for intensity, brilliance, smoothness, and limpidity. Then you smell it once and analyze its intensity and quality. Is it aromatique or tres puissant? Is it agreable? (Mais, of course! This is France, after all.) Then you swirl the wine in your glass -- it simply must have a moment to breathe -- before smelling again. This second time is a little more complicated. I'm not sure how to translate the whole process into English, but suffice it to say there are a lot of things that can be (supposedly) detected with the nose. Basically I just looked silly.

The last part of the wine examination is the examen gustatif -- the actual tasting! The first taste is to be sip, swilled, and spit back out. The wine is to be analyzed for its mellow, acidity, tanins, and alcohol content ... or at least that's how I think the words translate! For example, a squelettique or skeletal wine is lacking in tanins, while a glass that is apre or platreux has an excess of tanins. (God, I hate myself for even typing the words "excess of tanins.")

Because our oenologue realized he was dealing with American foreign exchange students, we were allowed to drink the remaining wine in our glass. Chug, chug, chug! By which I mean, pour, pour, pour (the wine down the sink because there ain't no way you're making me drink this stuff). Still, there were plenty of great opportunities for selfies, so I can't complain!

Also, I got to keep the glass! So all in all, pretty chouette.

(But imagine how great it would have been if there had been cheese.)


  1. Laughing out loud here! Too funny!

  2. Cheese and some fig preserves and a baguette as in Bull Run. . . sounds like you did learn quite a bit about wine however.

  3. J'aime le vin accompagne d'un bon repas ou plutot un bon repas accompagne d'un bon vin. Donc je suis d'accord: Fromage OUI!
    Tout cela me passionne, tu en as de la chance!