Thursday, February 4, 2010

Motley Cru

A ragtag band of collectors, bound together by their common love of wine (and in some cases, food), have, over the past 14 years, been gathering at Antonio's Cafe (Maitland) on Fridays for the express purpose of stumping each other re wine knowledge. It is a brutal affair. You are expecetd to identify the grape varietal, vintage, country of origin, and vineyard, all while absorbing verbal (good-natured) abuse from your fellow tasters.

The process is as follows. Everyone brings two bagged bottles of wine with one designated primary and the other backup. Each wine is tasted in turn with everyone taking turns at identifying it. If your primary bottle gets a Bronx cheer from the peanut gallery, you turn to your backup bottle. If your backup bottle elicits the same result you are banished to the aisles of Antonio's wine shop to retrieve a more suitable bottle. The preference in the group is for older wines and persons bringing wines of very recent vintage are referred to as "baby killers."

Preparation for the "battle" is intense and varies from person to person. For example, one participant gets a massage before every event to "clear his palate." I am more worried about his liver.

Depending on the time of the year, the group can range from six to sixteen. We normally buy lunch at the cafe, the price for them putting up with us. The group is drawn from various backgrounds with a core membership of about eight people: a dentist whose palate is as finely tuned as his vocabulary and whose biggest concern is whether your wine was properly stored or not; an environmental engineer who locks up until you return his corkscrew that you borrowed; an IT security specialist who does not smile until after his fourth drink; a very casual defense contractor; a radiologist with an eye on the next bottle; an extremely good-natured obstetrician; a doctor who made you feel like a genius because he only brought Burgundies and you could identify his wine as soon as he came through the door (he has switched and made life more difficult for us); a Help-Desk professional who is susceptible to Caymus Special Select; and me.

If you happen to be passing through the Maitland area on a Friday afternoon between 2:00 and whenever, do not be afraid to join us. Bring wine.

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