Corkscrew - Wine pet peeves: Grapes of wrath

A few wry observations

I've been compared to Andy Rooney several times in my life, my incessant, trenchant observations noted by high school teachers and friends alike. I haven't figured out if that's a compliment, but at least he's funny (to me) and has sold a lot of books. In a tip of the glass to 31 years of gifted career, I present my list of wry pet peeves, Rooney style.

Didja ever wonder ...

• Why men and women insist on wearing cologne to wine events? Often, the only aroma I detect in the wine is eau-de-chick-wearing-too-much-perfume, with my overly sensitive schnozz smelling hints of jasmine, roses and, worse yet, patchouli. Not the cherry, vanilla and blackberry I desire.

• Why chain smokers can't smell their stench but everyone else can? They waft through wine tastings reeking of ashtray, and all of the sudden, I sense burnt cigarette and smoked fruit in my beverage. Can we leave the habit at home next time? It's up there with B.O. Really.

• Why people obsess over wine glassware? In Europe, any vessel suffices when guzzling is the goal. Wax philosophical over your $50, wide-brimmed goblet, but don't rub your ultra snobbery all over me. Meanwhile, I'll continue to use my $5 stemware from Bed Bath & Beyond. It swirls just fine, thank you very much.

• Why do restaurants give me shit about sending back obviously old, stale wine? It stinks of maderized Heinz malt vinegar, and still the waiter serves up attitude like I'm the high-maintenance customer from hell. Hey, if I'm getting rammed with a $12-per-glass charge, it better be in perfect health or back it goes. Period.

• And while we're slamming restaurants, I hate it when servers push the most expensive wine on the list. I realize it boosts their check average – and they're hoping the size of their tip – but come on. Sincerity rules. When I was a server in college, if a customer asked for my opinion about a menu item, the honesty would slip out, good or bad. Maybe that's why that career didn't last, but it would be nice to see waiters recommend wine the way it should be – based on the customer's wants.

• Why airlines insist on serving crappy wine to coach passengers? I enviously eye the comfortable business-classers behind the velvet curtain, drinking tasty wines poured from regular bottles. Meanwhile, I stare at the rotgut wine shorties that should only bear the names Smirnoff, Jack and Tanqueray. I know economics and storage limitations define the wine choices, but perhaps the airlines need to realize the potential profits an increasingly sophisticated audience could bring.

• Why people assume that wine professionals double as bottomless pits of esoteric knowledge, with immense, recallable databases of every wine label ever produced? Talking with retailers and sommeliers, the same maddening conversation arises:

Customer: "I had a wine with dinner last week. It had a green label, and I think it was from Australia. Can I get a bottle of that?"

Retailer or server: "Was it white or red?"

Customer: "Red. Really fruity and delicious."

Retailer or server: "Where did you drink it?"

Customer: "London."

People, if you experience a Zen-like wine moment, especially while traveling, write it down. We don't know what the Brits (or anyone else) are stocking this week, so help us help you.

And why is it that people look at me funny when I'm enjoying a glass of wine with lunch? Perhaps it's moral judgment or even jealousy, but just because I chose a better life doesn't mean you have to hate me. Just join me.

Recommended Wine

Vinum Cellars 2006 Rosé Napa Valley If it's red fruit, it's in here. Bright strawberry, tart cherry, fragrant watermelon and raspberry. Full-bodied and slightly fizzy, with an earthy finish. HS, S. $12. 3.5 stars.

Sweet (SW), Hypersensitive (HS), Sensitive (S) and Tolerant (T). Find out your tasting profile at budometer.com.

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