It Tastes Like Pear
Sometimes when I taste wine, especially in the company of either wine lovers or accomplished sommeliers, I have a gut-wrenching, anxiety-provoking moment of deja-vu that transports me back to my third year of medical school. In that particular, humiliating instance, I failed to recognize what was arguably the world's loudest heart murmur. (To be sure, this should have been the first red flag that I belonged in pathology, but that is another post altogether!). As the star regurgitator of all medical minutiae, I was tested, and failed, when the cardiology professor incorrectly presumed I possessed a modicum of aptitude with my stethoscope. Before a medical posse that included my professor, sundry residents, fellow medical students, and the patient himself, I reluctantly listened to the guy's ticker, as the professor prodded, "So, what do you hear?" I panicked, groped for words, hemmed, hawed, and hedged. Finally, since his heart sounded entirely normal to me, I meekly proffered a squeaky, "a fib?" "What?!" the cardiologist yelped. "You can't hear that machine gun roooar? It's like a Boeing 747 landing in the jungle- a jack hammer. You don't even need a stethoscope to hear that ‘lub-groosh, lub-groosh, lub-groosh.'"
That dreadful moment of humiliation has indelibly remained and now recurs sporadically at wine tastings. I savor a swallow only to be faced with that same, expectant look, followed by the inevitable, "So, what did you taste?" I fear I might let my drinking companions down, or worse, yet, fail altogether. They'll realize I'm a phony, and I'll be demoted to Red Lobster and Sizzler for life. So I start slowly and build to a crescendo, "Pears? Ripe tropical fruit, for sure. Star anise? Definitely red fruit. A hint of tobacco? Maybe some leather?" Exasperated, I offer, "Violets??!"
I had actually used "pear" as a descriptor so often that it became an ongoing joke with Brian. I'd sample scallop, a Vietnamese spring roll, or my kids' mac and cheese, only to be taunted with, "Does that taste like pear, too?" All in good fun, he says. And, of course, gentle readers, I recount my own angst because with wine there is no right answer. I might love it, and you'll think it's swill. But don't fret; it's just a beverage. Instead keep drinking, trying, tasting, pairing and experimenting. What elevates your filet to carnivorous ecstasy may taste rotten with asparagus, a hardboiled egg , or a mocha Frapuccino. Just trust yourself, or better yet, your sommelier!