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July 20, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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wineA beginner’s guide to wine, by A BEGINNER

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Ladies and gentlefolk, I have failed you.

Well, that’s not technically true. A certain high-ranking member of the Salient staff has failed you, and I’ve contributed to this failure.

“But how so, oh wise Mr. Goodall?” you ask with quavering tongue.

Well, ladies and gentlefolk, I have no wine to review this week. Three weeks in, and no wine.

See, my bank account has been subject to much financial strain recently, and is currently recuperating somewhere nice—that’s fine, Guy Armstrong said, I’ll just get you some wine so you can write it.

I arrive at the Salient office today—no wine. I’m sorry, Guy Armstrong said, just have a metaphysical experience about wine.

Sure, I replied, baffled. Not being someone familiar with the vagaries of metaphysical experiences, I rolled my eyes behind Guy Armstrong’s back and walked home, defeated. What was I going to write about?

That’s it, I thought, as I unlocked my door and my eyes crossed to my trusty fedora-wearing Communist piñata Tamale.

I shall relate to you the tale of my first experience with that alcoholic beverage known in France as vin.

It would be easy to say my wine education started as a young child, having been brought up in a fairly devoutly Protestant household (Anglican, if you care about the denomination). However, my little seven-year-old body/mind never seemed to get drunk off the local church’s Communion wine/blood of Jesus, mainly because—as I discovered years later—they were actually feeding us grape juice, perhaps in a futile attempt to fight off youth alcoholism in the Pohangina-Ashhurst-Bunnythorpe parish. I say futile, because this is the region where one can go on a bushwalk and come across errant patches of cannabis. Moderation is not its strong suit.

No, my first experience was in 2008, shamefully enough, at a little debating tournament in Hamilton. There was to be dinner later that night, and I, fresh-faced and not knowing any better, purchased a Lindeman’s Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t remember the year, but I do remember drinking seven-eighths of the bottle (yes, exactly that). The taste hit me from out of nowhere—pungent and surprisingly strong, like I was front of the line for the once-in-a-lifetime blooming of a Malaysian corpse flower.

It goes without saying that I persevered. I didn’t find much to like about the wine, but the social context demanded my being at least on the path to shit-faced-ness. And I didn’t disappoint. I don’t remember a hell of a lot more about the wine, except that it went down quickly and that the restaurant stole it off me the moment I went outside to get some air, but the experience itself was relatively memorable. Of course, I’ve had better experiences with wine since then, but that’s like saying Michael Bay’s made better films since Bad Boys 2.

So yeah. That’s my story. It’s not riveting, it’s not especially exciting, but it’s especially appropriate for the occasion, and I’ve nothing better to say. And at least it’s not my story about when a couple of guys who were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighbourhood.

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