It took me a while to get into wine. I like my adult beverages cold. Give me a frosty mug or a cocktail glass stacked with ice. Wine is too dry, too warm and not at all refreshing for me.
One man, one friend, is responsible for changing my life- at least on this topic.
His name is Martial. He’s my former pastor, but more importantly (at least for the sake of this article) he’s European. He’s from Switzerland, close to the French border, and he grew up drinking fermented grapes with his meals. Seriously, he can’t remember the first time his parents allowed him to enjoy a glass. If he had to guess he says it probably happened when his age was still in single digits.
When he discovered that I wasn’t a fan, it seems like Martial really took it personally. He used lines like: “What’s wrong with you!” “What a sheltered life you’ve lived” or “You don’t know what you’re missing.”
These quotes, and many others, are just some of the reasons why he is my FORMER pastor.In all seriousness, my friend offered to give me a wine drinking lesson. It seemed funny to me at first, but he insisted that you don’t consume wine like you do any other beverage. It’s not supposed to pass your lips and go directly down the throat. Instead, for at least a moment, it’s supposed to linger in your mouth.”Swish it around,” my coach told me. “Try to suck in some air before you swallow. Wine is living and breathing. It needs oxygen.”Somehow, he can do this subtly. If you didn’t know, you’d never know that he was moving the wine around in his mouth. By contrast, I must have looked like a starving actor auditioning for a Listerine commercial. I was about to gargle it too, but Martial nudged me before I went too far.Yes, I looked silly. Yes, my teeth were purple after one sip, but amazingly it worked. Keeping the wine in my mouth brought the flavor to life. It actually became a game. I was empowered. I had the ability to alter what I was tasting. I was now hooked. Since then wine has become a part of my life.Now, I am a long way from being a wine snob, but I enjoy a bottle from time-to-time. I enjoy it enough that I became really excited with the news that a Total Wine and More was opening in town.The Wilmington store, which opened late last month, became the chain’s 13th location in North Carolina. It is located off Military Cutoff in the Renaissance Market. It measures 23,000 square feet and sells more than 8,000 different labels.
Now, we have a bunch of locally owned wine stores in town. Some are actually bars where you can buy the bottle, take it home or drink it there. I love these places- frequent one or two, and will continue to do so.Having said that, I had to check out this new option. And who else would I bring with me, but my European, wine guzzling-buddy Martial.
“You’re going to be overwhelmed at first,” he warned me. “It’s going to be sensory overload. You won’t know where to start.”Martial has been to several of the other locations. In fact when he’s traveling to another town for business or with the family, he makes it a point to stop and resupply his stash.When we walk in he goes immediately in one direction, abandoning me at the entrance. He knows exactly what he is looking for, and where to find it. This is the type of wine drinker who is educated about the different types of grapes and regions. He may experiment from time to time, but after all these years if you know what you like, why rock the boat?
I pick bottles based on the pretty labels!
That’s a joke, but there is some truth to it. I have figured out that I like reds way more than whites. I also think that Pinot Noirs are my favorite. At least I tried one bottle that I really liked…maybe it was just that brand, or maybe I was really good at swooshing it around that night. Who knows?
For me, and perhaps for other novices, Total Wine and More can be a bit intimidating. The staff seemed very friendly and helpful, but I didn’t know enough to engage them in conversation. What was I going to ask; Where do you keep the pretty labels?In the end, I had to narrow down my selection. I chose one aisle…one aisle seemed manageable. My plan for my next visit is to move one aisle over. I figure if I go once a month, in a year from now, I would have bought something from each section.On this trip I chose a Japanese plum wine, because I didn’t know you could make wine from plums. I haven’t tried it yet. It seems like a gamble. I’ll let you know. The second bottle was a red zinfandel with a lady bug on the label. It reminded me of my favorite novel, and it was in my price range. Why not give it a try. Total cost for the two bottles: $28.34.>When I reconnect with Martial, he has a shopping cart piled high with bottles. His total price: roughly a semester in college.Total Wine and More is open from 9am to 9pm Monday through Saturday and 10am to 7pm on Sundays. It is certainly worth the trip, but don’t forget to visit one of the many locally owned stores as well.