In college I worked in a sorority house as a dishwasher. In the rare instance that I relay this tidbit of information about my past to someone, without fail they cast a knowing smile, arch an eyebrow, and say something to the effect of “well, that must have been a tough job.” You know what – it was. There was absolutely zero Red Shoes Diaries component to my three hour daily shift of cleaning dishes for 100 girls while standing in what was lovingly referred to as “The Pit.”
Over the past few years I’ve once again become the recipient of that same sly reaction – only this time it happens when I tell people that my wife is a wine student. While I admit it’s better than operating The Pit, there are some legitimate gripes to spending your life with someone who has chosen this particular academic pursuit.
#1 – The Bottles. Sweet Jesus…they…are…everywhere. We are now on our fourth wine refrigerator and the bottles just keep stacking up. It’s like trying to stop springtime. I’ve found them stashed in closets, file drawers, desks, packing boxes, garage cabinets, etc. I think she has a problem. Like a wine hoarder or some other rare affliction we’re going to have to address with an intervention at some point.
This may sound trite – bottles are relatively small and stack easily. Right? Well, here’s a snapshot from move-in day to our new house. To be clear, this is a small house, so you’re looking at approximately 25% of the total square footage. You know it’s become a problem when the UPS guy is passing judgment!
#2 – Knowledge by Association. I know very little about wine (true story). Perhaps slightly more than the average person as a result of being married to a vinophile, but honestly – not much more. Nonetheless, whenever I’m out with friends or co-workers and the wine list is presented they always give it to me because of Noelle. Now, there’s really only two ways I can go here: bullshit my way through it, or try to convince my dining mates that I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m a guy, so I obviously choose bullshit every time.
However, once you choose bullshit you have to be totally committed to the bullshit process. Last month I ordered a Picpoul at Gramercy Tavern in New York. Do I know anything about Picpoul? Absolutely not. Do I know it exists only because of Noelle? You betcha. It’s kind of like saying Yellow Ledbetter is your favorite Pearl Jam song – everyone is going to pick Jeremy, so you have to pick a deep track in order to try and impress.
Now, when you try to the bullshit the Somm you’re going to get your test results back immediately. She or he is going to think (but not say) either: “Wow, Picpoul? Well I read this dude all wrong, that’s a great choice – clearly he knows his wine.” or “This guy has absolutely no fucking clue what he is talking about. None. I could serve him apple cider vinegar in a thimble and he wouldn’t say a word.” My results? Winner!! The Somm was incredibly impressed by my choice and we excitedly discussed what paired best with Picpoul with my admiring table guests looking on! (Of course, I bullshitted my way through that conversation as well.) Look, it’s a 50/50 proposition at best when they hand you the wine list, but you have to go for it when Noelle isn’t in attendance.
#3 – The Interrogation. While watching a movie with some friends recently, I asked Noelle to open – and I’m quoting here – “a bottle of white wine.” What followed was a thirty minute interrogation that made the bar exam look like a true/false question on the back of a cereal box: What alcohol level? Old world or new world? Zippy? Passion fruit? What are you guys going to eat with it? Is a little residual sugar ok? My answer was: I don’t care!! Any bottle of white will do. Literally – any bottle.
And so it goes. Every single time I open a bottle in our house I’m forced to render a dissertation on Spain’s climate in 2012, why French oak is vastly superior (or is it vastly inferior?), AVA controversies of the late 1990’s, etc. Want to know why I chose this particular bottle? It was the first one I saw when I opened the door to the wine refrigerator. You want real blasphemy? I didn’t even look at the goddamn label! Chardonnay? Pinot Gris? No idea – don’t care. It’s wet and white, so both boxes are checked in order to pair it with this horrific Velveeta grilled cheese on stale bread I’m currently choking down.
At this point I should be clear that the upside to living with a perpetual wine student far outweighs these pedantic observations. And for the sake of my marriage, I should further say that living with Noelle specifically does the same. However, the next time someone asks me what my wife does for a living, I may consider telling them her prior career “tax lawyer” in order to avoid what inevitably follows. Of course, if I do that I just know I’ll get a tax question about the deductibility of insurance premiums or some other scintillating inquiry. Screw it – I choose wine student.