Everyone is milling about the very warm room. In a hurried precision, the glasses are laid out (water, four white, four red) and the table split down the middle. Everyone's divided eight to eight. The grids are passed out. People check their contributions to the tasting, making sure that nothing is corked. I step back, crossing the leopard-print carpet, and let myself fall into a wing back chair near the fireplace. This is my second Boston Sommelier Society tasting and I know my place. Kelly's invited me to taste before, but I prefer the Dian Fossey approach. I wouldn't be able to answer half of the grid.
The mood is very similar to the art history classes I took in college. Sitting in the Multi-media Room, we would file in to find our preferred seats and watch as the professor showed slide after slide. We would stare at the brushstrokes, the medium, the style, and yell things out like "Expressionist!" "16th Century Italian!" "Monet!" "No you idiot, it's Manet!" As a class, we would agonize over the country of origin and artist, the time it was made, the medium, and name of the piece knowing each one was needed to get the answer right.
Here, tucked away in the function room of an upscale restaurant, the BSS plays a hectic game of musical chairs--filling each of the four white glasses with a different bottle. "Number one is on the left!" Steve calls out, trying to keep some resemblance of order in the confined chaos. He offers a friendly smile, quick to notice the notes I'm scribbling "Be kind," he asks. The BSS return to their original seats. They swirl and sniff the glasses, talking quickly about their preliminary findings before the actual test starts. The leaders of each group try to give instructions over the cacophony. "I just need to remember two fruits." "Some of us will be tasting and others will keep notes." "Where are all the sheets?" There is a soft lull and then the tasting starts, bringing back the passion I remember from Western Europe and New World Art History 101/102. "Primary color is golden with platinum highlights." "...Peach, Asian pear...there's some earth, white flowers, and orange blossom." "...Lightly spiced like cinnamon, ginger, maybe a little tarragon..." "Low tannins." "Acidity...pretty acidic, I guess." "Pears...yes, definitely pears." "I would say Old World Wine." "Could be a Riesling...Germany, Alsace..." "It's about 30 years old." "Alcohol and acidity is high, we can all agree on that." "I disagree. I think it's more New World--maybe the Orient."
I finish scribbling my notes and turn to other writing projects, trying to figure out the plot line for my current story. And yet, in the back of my head, I'm still siting in the Multi-media Room trying to decide if the Expressionist painting in front of me is French or Italian.