Learning the language of wine

By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, December 1, 2005

"I am not drinking any fucking merlot."

-Miles Raymond on his wine preferences from the movie "Sideways"

With the face of a morose bloodhound, Paul Giamatti brought the world of wine to the American public along with the ensemble of the award-winning movie "Sideways."

The critics' darling of last year, "Sideways" highlighted the travails of middle age, serving as both an exploration of a second coming of age and a basic crash course in all things that are fermented and grapey.

Wine snob Miles Raymond, sad sap and all, educated his ne'er-do-well friend during a trip through Northern California wine country. The enormity and complexity of this subject is visible by Jack's dumb expression throughout the film, though the onslaught of knowledge probably confounded a good portion of the audience as well. Though many could relate to ignorance on this subject, most can come away from the movie with the facts that merlot is shit and pinot noir can come in both white and red.

Long suffering from the stigma that it's a drink solely belonging to the elite, wine is losing its mystique and becoming more accessible to all strata of socio-economic classes.

As a result of this upsurge of interest, the Museum of Contemporary Art will feature a lecture by Dr. Adrienne Lehrer, professor emerita, discussing her research on the linguistics of wine and how people approach this subject.

Published 22 years ago, Lehrer's book "Wine and Conversation" was a foray into the unexplored field on how we use language in special occasions and how these structures affect our behavior.

On invitation by Anne Marie Russel, MOCA executive director and chief curator, this obscure research is undergoing a revival.

"Wine is the drink of the people," Russel said. "Wine is involved in most rituals and cultural gatherings throughout the world, though in America, the introduction of wine has been quite late in our history."

We can cite the problems of importing wine into this country as one of the reasons that wine has taken a backseat status to other drinks of choice.

However, with wine now becoming far more accessible due to the growing number of vineyards throughout the country, learning how to navigate this specialized language of wine will hopefully save you from being the dumbshit at the dinner table.

MOCA, 191 E. Toole Ave., will present "Wine and Conversation: Taste and Talk" with Adrienne Lehrer Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This event is reservation only, with no entrance without a ticket, as space is limited. Prices are $20 for MOCA members and $30 for nonmembers.