An Origin Story — “Wine is The Devil’s Brew”
Three years ago, in 2014, I started working at a regional, retail wine/spirits chain in Central Texas. Prior to this job, I spent two and a half years working as a catering server and bouncing around as a barista/server/prep cook in local restaurants. It was exhausting. I needed a change.
At first, the liquor store was overwhelming. I’d never been a bartender. I didn’t grow up in a family that drank wine, beer, or alcohol. My family was extremely conservative: an Evangelical group with deep roots. My father grew up Southern Baptist and my mother grew up Methodist in a rural community. My grandmother in Texas had lived through prohibition, and viewed every drop of alcohol as the devil’s brew.
After a couple months working in the store, my manager told me and a co-worker about an opportunity to sign up for in-house, corporate wine training. My co-worker passed on the opportunity. I was hooked. Hold on…I would get paid to taste wine for three hours a week for two months? Sign me up!
When I first walked into the training room, there were wine bottles lined up along the conference room. A magnificent variety of colors and bottles. They gave each of us a copy of “The World Atlas of Wine” by Hugh Johnson and Janis Robinson. We had weekly reading assignments. I sat at the front of the class for the entire course. It was an amazing experience. I learned to sniff, spit, and analyze wine critically. Also, I learned food and wine pairings.
Whiskey might be the devil’s brew, however, the world of wine is an alchemist’s brew of economics, farming, social science, chemistry, and the culinary world. You examine maps, talk about agriculture, and taste the subject! Each element of the senses is engaged in the study of wine. It is intellectually intoxicating! And intoxicating. Literally.
The course ended with an exam and a blind taste test of five or six different wines. I passed the exam and the blind taste test near the top of the class. After the test, our instructor brought four bottles from his personal cellar for us to drink. We tasted a 1997 Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil — minty, cabernet franc that was fascinating; A 1998 Leoville Barton Saint-Julien, a classic Bourdeaux red blend; Chateau Heny Tokai, which is a deep, sweet desert wine, and finally a 1996 Ridge Monte Bello, a mind-blowing California red blend.
The four wines from the instructor’s cellar were aged and lovingly selected for variety and experience. They expanded my understanding of the possibilities and depth of flavors in wine. Here is a picture of the bottles:
After the training ended, working retail was a grind. For a small percentage of the time, I thoroughly enjoyed selling wine to customers. Most of the time, I sold half gallons of garbage gin, bourbon, and vodka to burned out drunks and jug wine to winos. So, I quit.
I took a job as a bookkeeper. Two years later, in 2017, I miss the world of wine. Life as an accounting clerk is isolating and extremely redundant. I need to mix it up! This year, I’m studying for a Level 2 — WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust). I’ll keep track of my progress and the process of becoming certified on this blog. I’m definitely a neophyte in the world of wine. Here’s to the journey! Bottoms up for the Devil’s Brew!
P.S. Next, I’ll write an entry on why I chose to earn the WSET certificate.