I had a very special start into the world of wines. It was during my first internship in a renowned hotel in the Swiss Alps at the age of 18. There, I learned how important it was to serve wines in the right glass. At times, the sommelier made me try the leftovers in the wine bottles after the guests’ departure. I tasted expensive wines that tasted like mashed, overripe woodland strawberries and I heard someone whisper the name ‘Rothschild’ for the very first time.
One day, I have been given the chance to participate in a seminar on wines among some experts and convincing amateurs that stayed at the hotel. It was going to be the experience that defined my ambiguous relationship with wines for a long time. All of us were given two different wines for a blind tasting. One white and one red. No sight, no smell, no additional information – just taste.
There we were. Discussing about the quality of the wines with silly looking blindfolds and nose clips. We talked about the different flavours, the style, where the wines might come from. I was impressed by the details and nearly endless vocabulary that was used to describe the wines. And of course, I was too shy to contribute with anything to the discourse. I felt like a little sponge, trying to incorporate all the knowledge from the adults around me.
However, the big shock came with taking off the blindfolds. The sommelier had purposefully switched the white and red wine. First, he had served us a cooled red. Thereafter, he had poured an unchilled white. Suddenly, all of what was said before lost its validity. We were sitting there, trying to integrate the new information of colour with the earlier impressions. None of the experts had articulated the slightest suspicion and they were taken aback by surprise. They seemed betrayed by their own knowledge.
That was my start into the world of wine. It was characterised by mystery and disbelieve. How can one claim to possess knowledge about wine, when he or she can not differentiate between red and white? Until today, I am not sure if this experience was good or bad luck. It took me a long time to recover. In return, it will always remind me of the relativity of taste and expertise in wine.