I can’t remember my first crush, or my first kiss, however the moment I sipped the Bordeaux wine that transformed me from wine novice to connoisseur is forever etched in my mind. My love affair with wines began in the winter of 1994 in Besançon, France. Besançon (pronunced \bə-ˈzan(t)-sən) is the capital and principal city of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France located close to the border of Switzerland.
At that time I lived in Besançon a month longer than my student visa, family, fiance or finances expected. It took two months of living in France for me to realize that a trimester would be too short. “I’m not coming home,” read my post cards to my friends and family! No one was surprised.
My initial goal in studying abroad was to re-learn my first language. The years of American education resulted in a loss of my Haitian accent and fluency in French. Looking back now, I realize that my trip had more in store than re-learning to speak French. I was about to discover a passion, that I have remain committed to longer than my marriage.
That January night, I was invited to dinner at the Barthod’s home. The Barthod family were one of the host families for our group of students. They own a wine and specialty food store (Barthod Bar a Vin) in Besançon, on the Rue Bersot. In my honor Monsieur Barthod pulled special bottles of Bordeaux from his collection. At that time, the only thing I knew about wines was Boones Farm and (yes I’m not ashamed to admit it) Night Train, I was a poor college student. Had this event been a blind tasting featuring Monsieur Barthod’s Bordeaux wines and Boones Farm, I would not have known the difference. At that time, I didn’t even know what a blind tasting was.
I sat there amazed by the number of bottles on the dinner table. I wondered how six people could possibly drink that much. I soon figured that out! Monsieur Barthod introduced every wine with authority and detail; he discussed the vineyard and the vintages. I struggle to determine if he was talking about the wines, a lover, or a piece of art work. My proficiency in French had not returned. He swirled the glass, sniffed the wine and swished it around in his mouth. This was my first wine lesson. I watched with the patience of an appreciative guest, praying for him to stop so that I could get my under-age buzz on. “Blah, Blah, Blah, Bonjour Bonsoir,” and finally it was time to drink.
“Hello lover.” Don’t ask me who the producer of that Bordeaux was. I took no notes. My only concern was with the pleasure the taste brought to me. My first reaction was to smile in response to the tickle I felt when the liquid coated the insides of my cheeks and underneath my tongue. Monsieur Barthod described how the wine smelled and tasted. All I heard was, “sa te plais?” (translation, “do you like it?”). Had I known how to say, “Hell yeah,” in French, I would have yelled it out. Instead a silly grin spoke for me.
That was the beginning. I quickly moved from tasting wines for pleasure to working in the industry as a sales representative, then an educator and later became a wine columnist for South Suburban News. Today, I lead wine tastings and seminars, while writing about wine events, places and people.
My wine philosophy is simple. Drink what you like, and taste everything. My personal goal is to discover new wines that will challenge my palate and expose me to new people, places and cultures. I thumb my nose at wine snobs who are overly consumed with vintages and pairing. I enjoy bottles that range from $16-$600 (More $16 then $600).
I have several hopes for this website. I hope to answers your burning wine questions, please feel free to email them to me at email@example.com. I hope to encourage those who may be intimidated by wines to give it a try. I hope to teach you the basics so that you are no longer intimidated, or in the dark. I hope to introduce you to new wines, wine people, and places to buy and enjoy them.
This was originally published in South Suburban News
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