We’ve come a long way, baby.
When I was a puerile punk, drinking wine—if we drank wine at all—was restricted to Froot Loops brands like Tyrolia and Annie Green Springs. Wine without the word ‘cooler’ attached was as rare to us as a Negro in the NHL; wine was never the poison we named during Saturday night humps through bars that either accepted fake IDs or didn’t care in the first place.
As far as I was concerned, wine and fruit flies were bosom buddies joined at the hip, whether it was the grisly bio-system hovering above the barrel of dago red my father fermented in the basement or the gallon jug of Gallo that my mother kept under the sink and frequently forgot to re-cap.
That all changed, though. Around this time, guys we thought were hip (older dudes studying Political Science or jazz guitar) began drinking this weird pink shite that came in a candle-holder shaped bottle, and so naturally, we joined right in. We also stopped thinking that the Rat Pack were douchey stiffs from our folks’ generation and started grokking that everything they did—including drinking like real men—was worth emulating.
Somewhere along the line, our tastes evolved and we came to understand the swillicious garbage we’d been guzzling might have a counterpart in the adult world—where some drinks had history, others had panache, and a whole category of them made you sound smarter than you actually were simply because you learned how to pronounce them.
Enter the Flagon…
…And enter the wine.
As with most stuff that we thought gave us the edge in cool, we soon took our newfound love of wine to dopey extremes. How fun it was that by simply memorizing a bunch of vineyard names you could hold your own in a conversation with experts on Burgundy. How slick to understand that the five Premier Crus of Bordeaux were to the wine-wise what the mother sauces are to a classical chef—nail them and the world was your oyster.
California wine did its muscle flex and a bit of good old flag-waving nationalism soon make us shove some Napa down their Eurocentric gullets, with some Sonoma sauce on the side. We became all about the local juice. Same schtick, different appellations. We argued ad nauseum about fruit complexity, anthocyanins in grape skins, Kimmeridgian chalk versus adding gypsum to the soil; we used words like petrichor and pencil shavings and melisse until the sound of our own pretentiousness rang in the rafters.
It was like living inside that phenomenon of stage performance where you can’t hear yourself sing, but everyone else can.
Hold on (Change is A- Comin’)… ♬
How one turns the next corner, morphs into a higher plateau of wine appreciation, depends upon you—and be forewarned; it may not happen at all.
If it does, it may result from listening to an insufferable butt plug in your tasting group wax endlessly about some particularly minor point of enology and recognizing that the butt plug is you. It may come as an onset of clarity as you realize that most wine columnists are as entertaining as a scrotal abscess, wine tastings as convivial as a Dachau reunion, and the wine world a foul and pestilent congregation of self-importance and snoot.
In that case, your wine person evolution can be traced to your private dread of becoming the queerest of your comrades: The one who has become so subsumed in wine culture that all vestige of human interest not contained within a Riedel Vinum XI has lost its meaning. All things have become relatable to the vineyard; all imagery is a metaphor for fermented grape juice; the only friends left are wine people or wannabe wine people and the only questions anybody asks involve obscure points of origin, best wines for the money, how to pair wines with salads and what would be an appropriate wine gift for their boss at Christmas.
To these unfortunates, wine has supplanted every other attraction in life; men, women, cheerleaders, mature ladies who have been around the block a few times, virgin ruminants, dominatrices, watermelons with holes bored in them, Greeks and inflatable dolls.
By then, of course, it is too late—the physiology of the brain has changed and created a long-term imbalance in neuronal and hormonal systems that are not easily reversed.
We will call these sad beings, who have traded their souls for a sip of the sauce, sommosexuals.
But can you become a sommosexual? Can someone ‘turn you’ somm? Or are you born that way?
Nature vs. Nurture
Currently, there is academic debate as to the origins of sommosexuality. A complex blend of genetic, hormonal, and social factors goes into the makeup of the flaming, flamboyant, take-no-prisoners sommosexual, but since I am of the camp that subscribes to the ‘innateness’ of sommosexuality, I will not pass judgment.
We’re Somm, We’re Calm, and Honey, We’re the Bomb
The sommosexual has found a certain unsettling sense of liberation in today’s permissive society—parades and rallies and flashing their tastevins in public—and although there are no Biblical verses specifically relating to sommosexuality, I believe that I can appropriately quote Proverbs 6:16 (King Vidor version):
“These seven things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, a red too warm, hands that spilleth the innocent aperitif, missing or ‘wrong’ vintages on the wine list, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, and a sommelier who knoweth not when to shut the fucketh up.”
I’m No Sommophobe, But…
All that said, I would not want a sommosexual to date my daughter or son or visit my watermelon patch or private dungeon, but I firmly believe that what one does in the privacy of one’s own wine cellar is one’s own business.
Separate but equal is my motto. If somms want to marry each other like Inez and Stephen Ribustello did, fine. To be honest, I’d prefer they called it a civil union and wish they wouldn’t rub my nose in it or go all ‘sommy’ in bars where my minor children drink, but whatever.
Onward and upward, I say. Live and let pour.