Sometimes You Gotta Stretch Yourself

It was an a-ha moment for me, and not the kind where everything goes black and white, and you’re running from thugs with a pipe wrench. My moment came when I was drinking a glass of wine and was picking out flavors and aromas like never before.

I never thought much of wine; it seemed boring and one-dimensional to me. There’s something about beer that enthralls me. Beer has a great variety of flavor, depth, bitterness, color, and carbonation. Oh, that delightful carbonation! The effervescence of beer makes the aromas come alive and is something you don’t experience in most wines.

I love beer. It is my driving passion. Let me be very clear before I move on.  

But I must confess, I’m beginning to appreciate wine. When I drank wine in the past, it was almost always reds, and mostly cheap ones. My primary experience with whites was overly buttery California Chardonnays, and my acute aversion to Diacetyl in beer just won’t let me enjoy it in wine. But lately, I’ve been enjoying some outstanding whites from New Zealand, Argentina, and France and am noticing some interesting similarities to beer. Within days of each other, I had a crisp, minerally New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with tropical notes, then a lightly carbonated Pineapple Gose with mild salinity from Transient Artisan Ales. Those beverages were more alike than different. It was striking how similar they were.

So, this weekend I’ll be taking the Level 1 Introductory Course and Exam from the Court of Master Sommeliers. To call me a wine novice is an overstatement. I’ve found it refreshing to start from scratch. I have deeper empathy now for beer folks asking for advice for preparing for the Level 1 Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server test. It seems overwhelming when you dive into a subject that fills volumes of books.

So why this journey into wine? I did it to stretch my palate and to wire new tasting circuits in my brain. In the last year, I’ve tasted a lot of beer. I became a BJCP Certified Beer Judge and have judged several rounds in homebrew and professional competitions. I’m also retaking the Advanced Cicerone tasting exam soon. Beer will always be my first love. But I feel like if I only taste beer, my palate is missing out on other challenges and flavors that wine can open up. I think that becoming a decent wine taster will make me a fantastic beer taster. Or at least that’s the plan.  

Wish me luck, I feel somewhat ready, but I’m operating far outside my wheelhouse. I’ve studied all the world’s wine regions and varieties, plus brushed up on Fortified Wines, Sake, Cider, and Spirits. There is only one minimal subject in the study guide I ignored… beer. I think I got that.