Selecting the Right Wine
Fiction by Wayne Scheer
Whenever Phyllis brought up the idea of attending a wine tasting, Ben would say, "I'd rather drink than taste." The more he resisted, the more she persisted.
But he had been married long enough to appreciate the inevitability of attending a wine tasting if Phyllis really wanted to go. He tried convincing himself he might even find it interesting.
"Okay," he said, putting down the morning paper. "I see Angelo's advertising a tasting of the wines of
Italy this Thursday. Let's go. And afterwards we'll eat dinner
"You are the sweetest man," Phyllis said.
"I'll make reservations," he said.
"No need." She smiled. "I already made them."
When they arrived at the restaurant, the hostess showed them to a separate room. Eight tables were set with small plates containing crusts of bread, slivers of cheese and dollops of berries. The room was empty, except for waiters and one other couple.
"For this we paid twenty bucks," Ben whispered to his wife. The hostess smiled politely and showed them to their table. The other couple avoided any sign of polite smiles.
"Be good," Phyllis warned her husband.
Waiters arranged eight empty wine glasses and a water glass at each setting. "Maybe it won't be so bad after all," Ben said.
Within minutes, people gathered and greeted each other. Phyllis smiled. "Isn't this nice? It's like taking a class with old friends."
Soon, a balding man with a ponytail, wearing a black turtle neck sweater, a light brown sports jacket and well-pressed jeans kissed and hugged his way to the front of the room. The chatter hushed as if Moses had come down from the mount.
"Tonight, we will taste the charming wines of
Northern Italy, particularly the Piedmont region and the
North Eastern Provinces."
"Ahhs" and "oohs" passed through the room like the wave at a ball game.
Mr. Pony Tail began detailing the climate and soil conditions of the Piedmont region, explaining that the environment was perfect for Dolcetto, "
answer to Beaujolais."
"When do we start drinking?" Ben whispered.
Phyllis shot him the look she had perfected from twenty-six years of teaching elementary school.
After more lecturing about the state of the grape, the waiters began pouring.
"Ah, that's more like it." Ben rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
But his expression changed when he saw how small a portion graced his glass. Trying to be good, he held his tongue.
He watched the couple across from him sniff and slosh the wine from cheek to cheek. Another man swirled the liquid in its glass and held it up to the light as if performing a science experiment. A woman sipped and spit the wine back into her glass, describing it as "fruity." Her companion complained the finish was a bit abrupt.
"Oh, for crying out loud," Ben said, as he tossed back the small amount of wine in a single swallow. "Not bad."
Phyllis said she preferred a dryer wine, but was glad to have tried this one. She turned to her husband and winked. "It is, after all,
Italy's answer to the Beaujolais."
"You're starting to rub off on me," she said.
"I love it when you talk dirty." Ben popped berries into his mouth like they were peanuts.
After experiencing a "non-assertive but far from passive" Merlot and a couple of other wines, one of which Ben thought tasted like cough medicine, Mr. Pony Tail assured them they were now in for a special treat. "We have an excellent Borolo for your tasting pleasure."
"Now that's what I'm talking about," Ben said to Phyllis, adding, "What the hell is a Barolo? It sounds like something you wear on your head."
"Barolo and Barberesco are, of course, the most famous reds of the Piedmont region."
"Damn Commies," Ben whispered. "The Sacco and Venzetti of wines."
This time Phyllis laughed, dribbling the water she had been sipping.
The man sitting nearby increased his glare to a glower. His wife uttered a "humph."
Ben saw Phyllis's face redden. Afraid he might have embarrassed her, he took her hand.
"It's okay," she said loud enough for the couple to hear. "That was funny. Wine hasn't destroyed my sense of humor."
The crowd "cleansed their palates" in anticipation of the pouring of the Barolo. Ben had already eaten his allotment of food. A waiter filled his water glass.
But the bottles of Barolo remained unpoured as Mr. Pony Tail shared an involved history of the Nebbiolo grape. Ben watched people take notes.
"Will this be on the test?" he asked.
"Not as original as the Sacco and Venzetti line," Phyllis said. "But if we don't get some food into us soon, I'm going to eat this tablecloth."
Finally, the waiters poured the Barolo.
Ben drank it without fanfare. "Mmm, this is good."
"Dry but not arid," said the man across from Ben and Phyllis. "A lovely finish. Fresh and original."
"Actually, this one is dry enough to suck the spit right out of you," Ben declared, as the sippers sniffed and sloshed. "I bet this would go well with a pork chop, maybe lamb."
"You talked me into it," she said, grabbing her purse. "It's getting rather stuffy in here."
As they stood, Ben reminded her there was still more wine to be tasted.
"Wine," she said, "is like men. Once you select the right one, there's no reason to keep looking."
Ben wrapped his arm around her shoulder as they made their way out of the room and into the restaurant. He looked back at the wine tasters, imagining they were staring at him with envy. They should be, he thought.
Want to read more stories like this by Wayne Scheer and others? Be sure to check out the Love Hurts anthology, featuring 21 humorous stories. Click here for more information.