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Shell Shocked: Sampling French wine

By Staff | Oct 7, 2015

I wake up every night in a cold sweat. I keep dreaming about wine. My nightmare consists of taking wine showers, consuming glass after glass of wine, ice skating on ice wine ponds, skiing down wine slopes and pouring wine into my Cheerios bowl.

How did I become a wine fetishist you ask? Two weeks in the Bordeaux region of France, that’s how.

My wife and I decided to do a river cruise in the Bordeaux region to sample the great wines there. Little did we know that we would be consumed by all things wine 24-hours a day. We are totally brainwashed now and spend our waking moments sampling bottles and bottles of reds and whites.

It started innocently enough. On our first day in Bordeaux we were taken to a local vineyard to observe how grapes are harvested during this time of year. This particular vineyard specialized in producing sauterne wines. We toured the wine production equipment areas and learned all about how wine is processed.

And the climax to the morning tour was the sampling of the finished product. We were taught the time tested rituals of proper wine tasting which consists of sniffing, twirling the wine around in the glass and sipping. The wine was lovely and we thought we were ready to leave.

But, out came several more bottles. Each new bottle was the same sauterne, but produced in a different year. We were asked to note the subtle differences in the wine from year to year. I am not a wine expert and didn’t quite sense any subtle differences. But the more I tasted the more I wanted to sample. And that’s how the trouble started.

We went to three more wineries that day and sampled a variety of reds and whites. My palate was ablaze with new tastes and practically clawed its way onto my tongue. The two worked together in wondrous harmony. But, my gut challenged the process. It wasn’t used to devouring so much wine in one day. The signals my gut sent to my body were ominous wobbly legs, slurred speech and hallucinations about my body undergoing a metamorphosis into a magnum of St. Emilion cabernet.

And this went on for days and days. New vineyards and new tastings. When we arrived back at the cruise ship at the end of each day we sampled more local wines with dinner. We were given a different red, or white wine with every course. I tried emailing AA for help, but the Wi-Fi on the ship was conveniently turned off. I had no choice but to stay the course and gradually evolve into a wino.

The pattern was set. Get up in the morning, eat breakfast, tour two wineries, come back for lunch, and tour two more wineries. Stagger back to the ship for dinner and sample a different wine with each course. And then go to bed dreaming about wines of all tastes, sizes, shapes and functions.

I was now addicted to French wine and couldn’t go through a day without it. I may not have become a wine connoisseur, but that didn’t matter. There wasn’t a single wine I didn’t like. I returned home continuing to dream about wine and immediately made plans for my next wine tasting tour. I didn’t care what part of the world it would be in so long as there were ample vineyards and wine tasting tours.

Is this a sad story? I’ll leave that for you to decide. The jury is still out. But, I did make many new friends on the cruise ship and every single passenger went home in the same condition I was in-bleary eyed, pale, wobbly and dazed. We now email each other suggesting where to find new wines. We share news about local wine tasting events and provide tips to each other on how to remove cork from our teeth.

Have you tried the 2013 Myrat Sauterne as yet? It’s a bit pedantic with a frivolous attitude and borders on maturity without being offensive. Try it.

-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.