The Silly Side Of Serious Sommeliers

We have to have fun with what we do, right? I try not to take myself too seriously; I know I’m still working on it. As serious as I am sometimes, I can be equally cheeky and playful.

I remember one year when I was in Bordeaux and I was traveling with a fellow Master Sommelier buddy of mine. We were at Chateau Lascombes, to be exact, and we were having dinner with winemaker Dominique Befve. We tasted current vintage wines, then toward the end of the dinner, we were going to taste some wines blind for us, his guests, to guess what vintage we were tasting.


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A light and bright Pinot Grigio perfect for sipping on a warm spring day

Dominique has a sense of humor, so I asked him secretly to pour something else for my friend. They poured him a barrel sample instead of the older wine that the rest of us tasted. I promptly asked him to help us deduce the wine in question. He started to look at the color of the wine and describe it.

As everyone looked around and at him, he quickly realized that there was something different about his glass.

Aha! The jig was up, but it was worth the laugh.

Did I mention that I asked someone close to my family to store some wines for me … at the bottom of the ocean?

After reading a press release about how they found some bottles of ancient Champagne at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, I got the idea. The Pacific Ocean is probably just as cold and dark at a certain depth, so I wanted to experiment to see how wine would age in this type of environment. He was happy enough to take the wines down to depth, and left them there for about three months. The next time he visited the same location, he checked on the bottles.

Unfortunately, it appeared that the corks were somehow pushed in and that seawater had entered the bottles, so this experiment was for naught.

I think it had something to do with a drastic change in temperature as the bottles submerged. I suspect that the bottles had been lying out on the deck of the boat and were probably ambient temperature, around 80 Fahrenheit, before going down below into something around 60. That and the pressure of the depth probably had something to do with it. I still want to try it again, but this time with Champagne.

I was with a group of sommeliers, wine writers and bloggers hosted by the Lunelli family of Ferrari fame (the sparkling wine from Trento, not the car) having dinner at Restaurant Terrazza Danieli in Venice at the famed Hotel Danieli Venice overlooking the Grand Canal. It was a fun bunch, and we all had been playing pranks on each other for a few days already. Someone had snatched one of the attendee’s camera while they were not looking and was taking photos of the “lower half” of their body. I wonder what the person with the camera thought of that when he got home?

Anyway, this was our last night in Venice and we were drinking some terrific Ferrari Perle Blanc de Blanc. It was rich and befitting of the view we had of the Grand Canal lit up at night. I walked away for a moment to look over the edge of the terrace. Then I returned to my glass of delicious Ferrari — except it was no longer delicious. In fact, it tasted like the water I was staring at: salty! Someone had put some salt in my otherwise delicious glass of Trento!

Laughs were had by all. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then you should see a therapist. Have fun no matter what you do.

Recommendations: 2013 Bastianich Pinot Grigio ($14) Light and bright, the perfect Pinot Grigio for sipping on a warm spring day while snacking on cheese and crackers or just chatting with friends over brunch. 2013 Ballard Lane Pinot Noir ($13) You won’t believe the price when you taste this wine. I was totally impressed with the bright and ripe fruit components, the juiciness on the palate and the lingering finish. It is simply enjoyable. You can find both at Fujioka’s Wine Times.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.
Twitter: @Pinotpusher