Let's Talk About Wine

By Bret Heiar

By

Bret Heiar
"Classic Chardonnay but with a feral edge, like a beautiful woman covered in tattoos and impeccably dressed."
"Classic Chardonnay but with a feral edge, like a beautiful woman covered in tattoos and impeccably dressed."

Has anybody ever really tasted crushed rocks or velvet? The whole idea behind describing a wine is to give guests an image or an association with it—to get them interested. At the end of the day, though, there are no rules. Why can’t the image be a song, a cultural reference, or a TV show? Anything that draws your attention, gives you a point of reference, or is just plain fun to read is fair game.
 
I would rather drink a glass of hair than read another boring description of cassis, cherry, and cigar. I mean, come on, those words have been used to describe thousands of wines and sometimes multiple wines on the same menu. Tasting notes from Ancient Egypt include “rich, aromatic, tart, green,” etc. 

A big problem with the public’s perception of wine is that the gatekeepers—the somms, buyers, and critics— have made it too precious, too pedantic. The game is changing, though. On our menu at Publican Anker, we sell wines with references to Merle Haggard, Rose from “Golden Girls,” and even Nickelback, and in stretching the way we describe wines, our staff gets to be creative, write differently, have fun, and get people engaged. Plus, my strange brain gets a chance to exercise. 

If nothing else, I’ve had guests order an obscure wine on the description alone. Please talk about it, but at the end of the day, just drink the damn wine already.

Bret Heiar is wine director at Chicago’s Nico Osteria and Publican Anker. Maryse Chevriere is the James Beard Award-winning wine illustrator behind @freshcutgardenhose.

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