Amaroned (p.p., adv.): Having had the sudden realization, as in a tasting, you're drinking wine with 15% alcohol and it's too late to start spitting
Last night was a dry evening for me, which officially means I got hosed the previous day.
Some insist on the hair of the dog in such cases, but this summer I've learned not to believe old wives' tales. In June, I drank the day after annihilating a Perrin Réserve magnum at a friend's birthday and it was literally sickening. I felt pretty much the same way when I followed up an all access pass at the Wines of New Zealand by barreling headlong into a hasty decision to finish off the remaining half bottles of wine lingering in my fridge.
So this morning, after the benefit of a fully sobering Monday, I present to you Wine with Bill Zacharkiw, the reason I drank 29 bottles of Venetian red wine during a four hour tasting session on Sunday evening.
Well I didn't drink them all myself. I do want to let Bill tell the story in his upcoming Montreal Gazette column (which will be available at the web page linked above), but I should at least say there were three other tasters in addition to Bill. That was reassuring. And a lot was dumped into the spittoon -- also reassuring -- but, ultimately for me, it apparently was not nearly enough.
Bill, ever the gracious host, gave us tasters little reason to leave, bringing out Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses as well as a tray of cured meats when we had finished rating the wines. At this stage, achieving the discipline to spit that I had been searching for all evening was obviously not in the cards. I should've shown greater willpower earlier on when the wines were cheaper and the delicious food didn't beckon the vino.
Just one of many ways that this event was a learning experience for me.
I've had Valpolicellas and Ripassos before so I immediately found it gratifying to directly compare so many back to back (to back). It was a huge opportunity to decipher everyday wines without the bias of food or the kind of mood you happen to in on a given day. But it wasn't just an illuminating experience because I was exposed to two dozen bottles. Here were four winos with great expertise to guide the tasting. Personally, I found it an amazing opportunity to learn from those more experienced than myself.
We started off with a set consisting of four flights of Valpolicella. When I heard my fellow tasters murmuring something about "phenolics" and "residual sugar" -- terms that I could not use to identify a wine -- I got a bit scared. But when I found I was for the most part singling out the same Valpos as the others, I could increasingly parse the professional lingo, and even jotted down some new French terms I had never heard of.
As the night went on and the set of Ripassos came and went, I not only got a real sense of the Veneto region, but also learned about the differing palates and expectations of those sitting around the table. It turned out agreement wasn't always universal, but honesty and dedication to how one tastes and perceives these reds were.
Finally out came the Amarones. I'd never had Amarone yet there I was one of five votes weighing in on the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Ugly Amarone I now know is how you feel the next morning.)
When the Amarone flights started I was tiring, in part because I was deflated I didn't have any experience in what to look for or expect like I did with the other types of wine. I felt kind of useless. But of course I didn't turn down nine different chances to taste a style of wine that in its most inexpensive expressions retails for about $30 (and up). So I dive in.
My first taste was like taking a sip of Port, a wine I am only slightly more aware of than Amarone. And so I noted it and waited for the others to launch into discussion.
"Porty," said Bill almost immediately. And instantly I thought to myself that I can't wait for the next chance to do this.