I get wine samples. Lots and lots of wine samples. This is much to the envy of my co-workers who observe my small army of bottles spilling onto the floor. My brother proclaims receiving free wine samples a “boondoggle,” akin to a book reviewer receiving a carload of volumes he/she may never read, much less write about. But I try, sometimes to the point of pain, to taste every single bottle sent into my world. It’s because of this waste hang-up I have. If there’s an open, unfinished bottle lying around, I actually feel guilty about pouring it down the drain … and I’m not even Catholic. I trace it back to the old maternal rantings to “waste not, want not.” Although I doubt Mom wanted her words to be applied to alcohol consumption, it translates in my psyche all the same.
So, in an effort to be a good, thrifty daughter, I turn to friends and co-workers to help consume my wine bottle battalion at private blind tastings. This rather motley crew of drinkers — converging from all levels of wine knowledge — represents the everyman’s wine opinions, definitely the opposite of the fancy, glossy wine mags. As the mediator — I rarely interject my opinion — I observe and write down the group’s passionate judgments. After a couple of years, I noticed a pattern of group behavior, morphing into wine consumer types. They’re tried and true, and you’ll find most of them at any wine event, providing entertainment and insight. Who said working wasn’t fun?
The Educators already know a fair amount about wine. They feel compelled to lecture about each wine, its flavor profile, consistency and perhaps a little something about the vineyard where the grapes originated. An Educator can be a great catalyst for education, but the constant drone gets old after the third or fourth wine.
The Muses contemplate each sip, mulling over the words to carefully describe the sensations in the mouth. They think before they speak, unlike the Educators, who let it rip indiscriminately. I get the most writing fodder from the Muses, so I try to cultivate these people as much as possible.
The Closed Mouths won’t announce anything in front of the group, but usually corner me to unload a slew of opinions. They’re shy about their taste in wine and don’t want to be judged, especially by the Educator.
The Prognosticators firmly believe the wine they like will be the next hot item. They’re confident in their opinions, but express them sparingly. Little gold nuggets emerge often. They get a bit overwhelmed by a crowd, but hold their tongue until the Educator is finished. Almost always get the last word.
The Bullshitters know enough about wine to be annoying and make up the rest. They’re especially hazardous when the Educator isn’t in the room to quickly correct them. Other times, they will go with the flow and agree with everyone else’s opinion.
The Newbies are just coming out of their shell. They’ve started reading wine books and soak up anything the Educator says. They love wine and everything about it and find discovering it a joy. These people rock.
Doubt the stereotypes? Observe at your next wine function and watch them come out and play.