Working Front-of-the-House in the Service Industry in various venues, you’ll inevitably have to get your learn-ed on, in terms of wine basics. At the very least, you’ll have to become well-versed in faking it with a showy, resume-word-laden service spiel, that “implies” you know what the fuck you’re talking about when it comes to sour grapes. Now, if you’re employed by a dive bar (and actually have a red and a white offering beyond Fonzie jugs of Manischewitz) you may not have to know much more than which variety is dry and which is – ehem – sweet. On the flip side, if you’re fortunate enough to land a high-income gig at a trendy Steakhouse, unionized Hotel bar, any French/Italian Restaurant, or the myriad of genres in between, which have actually put some thought into their wine lists, you must possess basic Somm skills.
At minimum, you’ll need the basic ability to reasonably communicate the following wine characteristics: (1) growing regions, climates, and their affect on the final product (2) Old-World v. New-World (3) dry v. demi-sec v. sweet (4) grape varietals and their differences and finally (5) if your guests are dining, pairing appropriateness.
Based on the above (and hopefully, your previous tasting experiences with some of your establishment’s offerings) you must also be able to make a couple of recommendations and pairings from several categories, in different price-points. Complicated, eh? Not so much if you have a bit of experience and bring the acting drams. Difficult, yes, if you’re only experience bartending has been a Bud and shot chick, at an eye-candy haven like Dakota Roadhouse, Hogs and Heifers or the like.
Myself? I’ve been blessed to have been born (in the United States) to immigrant parents who relished the grape juice with great fervor. Long before I hit my teenage years, my palate had already developed a discriminatory taste for wines – red in particular. I don’t recall my parents not having a wine-rack in the living room… not the best place for it, I admit. It really should have been in the damp, cool, light-starved basement. In any case, never were there anything less than a dozen or so selections available on that 40-bottle, cast iron, behemoth. Never did we sit down to dinner without uncorking a new bottle. It’s simply the way we lived. To me it became normal. My folks liked to try new varieties once in a while. But, mostly, they stuck to Bordeauxs and blends like Château Mouton Rothschild. They were big fans of the Old-World, highly-tanic, big-boddied astringent wines like Cab and Merlot. Classic shit. I guess it fits as most of what we ate was Beef, Pork and Chicken, with rice thrown in for good measure. I would have mixed it up a lot more but that was then; I was a kid and was “unlucky” in that I got to suck down whatever wine had been selected for me on a nightly basis. Oh the torture… right.
I’ve alluded to wine knowledge – briefly – in a past article, as has fellow bar scribe Dave. It’s a massive part of your educational requirements as a bartender, and even more so as a server, in most restaurant bars worth their salt. It’s sad to say, but it’s also an area where horrendous douchery often runs a muck. Sommeliers and wine-snobs are notoriously thicke, holier-than-though type folks.
But why steal some elses’s writing thunder? Why expend myself, tiring my dainty little fingers, when my fellow barkeeps like Dave have already done such a great job? I refuse (today at least).
To wit, Malina Bickford, fellow bartender (and much-desired hot piece of ass – did I just say that?), puts out on just about Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know About Wine. Essentially, it’s a mini-Somm class for the un-initiated. You’ve been to bars and restaurants countless times, acting high-and-mighty in your best duds, snapping unceremoniously (ugh) for the waiter. You then point to the extensive wine list, and gloriously proclaim you know what the fuck you’re talking about when it comes to wine. You must prove this point to your dining guests by ordering a bottle for the table. You be the man, cupcake! Well, we’re here to try and save you from own pompous self going forward. We’re going to try to convey a small bit of actual knowledge into your otherwise bulbous head, in an effort to save you embarrassment the next time you’re so inclined to talk shit, and order a bottle for the table.
This all brings to mind that I have a major problem. Many folks refer to it as a penis. And I think it (and I) heart me this bartender Malina something awful. The more of her writings I entrench myself in, the more I’m grossly infatuated. But I guess that’s natural, eh? I know I’m not the only one. She lives and works on the Wrong Coast in LA. Me? Living and working in NYC doesn’t work in my favor in terms of hookup potential. My current status as faithful husband and father, further puts the kibosh on any chance I may have entertained. Shit. My logistical situation, however, doesn’t deflate my desire by any stretch unfortunately. I can envision plopping my ass down at her bar for a few nights, turning on my well-versed, natural charm, flashing my perfect pearlies, tipping extraordinarily well (as I always do), and persistently getting my mack on until she caves.
I’ve been lucky in the hookup department over the years. With just a couple of exceptions, it’s never taken much at all to win over the ladies. More often than not, in my case, I haven’t had to try at all. Rather, I have been frequently “victimized.” This was true even before being employed as that elevated target of nightly Strange, a bartender. We’ll save those nuglets for another article though. Luckily, I’m a still a somewhat good-looking dude who somehow knows what to get what he wants those rare times when I actually put some effort into it. I’ve often wondered exactly how that happened. It’s not like I have degree in clowning chicks or something.
Oh well… in my next life I guess Malina.