I have met a really nice woman in my German class, and during our breaks we have been comparing notes on Swiss living. We did the obligatory gasping over the cost of food, we marvelled at how accessible the outdoors are, and we laughed about how it's a myth that the Swiss are socially reserved: we have both found that as soon as you open your door to them they get all up in your personal business. But the big shock we both have in common is this:
Can you believe how much wine you're drinking now?
Please, any Puritans reading these words, I am not an alcoholic: I just live in Europe.
So prior to moving to Switzerland, my experience with wine goes as follows:
(1) Age seven my grandad gives me a sip of his red wine and I promptly proclaim it to be 'sick' and declare I will never try it again.
(2) Beginning of university I have a friend who's mom answers the door at 10 a.m. in a leopard print bathrobe, holding a sweating bottle of chardonnay in her right hand and a near empty glass in her left. I think to myself: Even if it is wine, you're still drinking at 10 a.m. and that ain't good.
(3) Near the end of university, after beer ponging our way through three years of learning, it is decided it's time to 'grow up', so now when house parties are attended it is imperative to appear sophisticated and worldly so we drink wine. When going to the liquor store my main requirement to choosing a brand of wine is it has to be red, it has to be cheap, and it would be nice if it didn't come out of a box.
I have standards.
Cut to our first trip to Switzerland and we were sitting with friends and family, all of us drinking wine, when one of the men held his glass to light and eyeballed its contents before quickly spinning the garnet liquid round and round in his glass then bringing it to his nose and deeply inhaling.
I almost laughed.
Was this guy for real? Did he actually sniff his wine, without a trace of irony? A quick scan of the room showed his behaviour seemed normal, and he didn't appear to be some pretentious poser. A few days later we'd gone out for dinner with family, and I was happily taking my first sip of wine when I noticed our dinner companion had a perplexed look on his face. After taking one more sip of wine, that he sloshed around in his mouth like mouthwash, he flagged down the waiter and sent back our entire bottle because it tasted like it had been contaminated by the cork. The waiter apologetically hurried to collect the bottle and our glasses, while I looked generally confused and tried to discreetly fountain my mouthful back into my glass, because seriously? It tasted fine to me.
Dan's family has been very interested to learn that in my little corner of Canada, we aren't really a wine culture and it's not common for most people to have large stores of wine for their personal consumption and enjoyment. (Except for the people who U-Brew their own wine, and I have a sneaking suspicion that people in Europe might consider that homemade brew to be blasphemous.) I have been very interested to learn that is not the case here. If you pop into somebody's house for a quick visit, the wine is uncorked; if you are sitting down to a meal with friends, multiple bottles of wine are generously uncorked and the host is praised for his/her good taste; if it's a quiet Saturday night--just you and your husband and a movie--a bottle of wine is uncorked.
So I am proud to say that even if my German language classes are slow going, at least I seem to be getting a little more fluent in the language of wine. Why just this past Monday Dan and I sat down to a nice dinner and we popped open a bottle of wine; after taking a sip we stared at each other, looking slightly disgusted.
"Cait, this wine isn't very good."
"I agree. What's up with that? It says it's from Italy for God's sake, doesn't that mean by default it should taste good?"
"Yeah, I don't like this one."
"Me neither. Let's just buy that La Sensuelle brand now."
Folks, this conversation might not sound like much to you but here's what it means: Dan and I have now become wine snobs. We will no longer be going to the Denner and buying $2.98 bottles of wine (who says you can't get a deal in Switzerland?) because we are moving up in the world and we will now exclusively only be enjoying $6.00 bottles of wine thankyouverymuch.
We have standards.