I am not an oenophile. I had to look up the spelling of that fancy word for a connoisseur of wines. I had little clue as to how to spell it.
But I do know one thing about wines: When guests bring a bottle of wine to your dinner party, have them open it.
Bob and Paula Fey came to dinner. The four of us make it a point to get together for dinner once or twice a year.
Bob handed me a bottle of red wine. Which red wine? I really did not look. I set it on a side table, beside the bottle of merlot, another red wine, that I had bought that afternoon.
We were having pork. I did not buy the merlot because I knew that it would go well with pork. I bought the merlot because my wife had said, “Get a bottle of merlot.” Well, OK.
Before I left the house, I double-checked to make sure that we had a working corkscrew remover thingie. I dimly recall that we ought to have three or four of those gizmos, but we have wine so rarely that I never remember their locations. It turns out that the one I found resided in a “junk drawer” in the kitchen, rather than in a hallowed wine cabinet niche which any true oenophile would have created.
Anyhow, Bob and Paula came. We sat down to dinner. I opened our bottle of merlot, and poured four half-glassfuls into the large goblets sitting on the table. The goblets were large because we did not have small goblets. I did not even know that, technically speaking, wine glasses are not called “goblets.” Google says they are called ... wait for it ... red wine glasses, white wine glasses, rose wine glasses, dessert wine glasses, etc.
At my grandparents’ house when I was a kid, we did not drink wine from glasses. We just poured the stuff into those big old white kitchen cups. Kids got somewhat diluted wines, but grown-ups got the real stuff, homemade until Grandpa got too feeble.
But last week, we used goblets, because we had them.
Four people go through one bottle of wine rather quickly when also consuming salad, pork ragu, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, shiitake mushrooms and asparagus. From that listing, friends can immediately deduce that my wife did the cooking. I would have served non-ragu pork, mashed potatoes and, if pushed, carrots.
“Should I open your bottle?” I asked.
“Sure,” said Bob.
I got up, got the bottle and moved to the kitchen counter.
That was my mistake.
I should have asked, “Should you open your bottle?”
When I heard “Sure,” I ought to have handed the bottle and the corkscrew remover thingie to Bob, gestured toward the counter, and grandly said something like, “Have at it.”
Instead, I went into the kitchen, around the corner from Bob, Paula and Maryellen.
I flipped the thingie’s wings up, positioning the sharpened end of the corkscrew atop the bottle cap.
“No, wait,” I said to myself. I set the corkscrew thingie down, tilted the unopened bottle onto its side and, with my Leatherman tool knife blade, scored the foil just below the top.
Oddly, the foil did not readily peel off. That should have been my first clue, but I ignored it.
I turned the bottle upright again, regrasped the corkscrew thingie, and twisted its point into the top of the bottle.
“This seems harder than it was with the other bottle,” I thought.
Another clue missed.
I looked into the dining area. Bob, Paula and Maryellen were chatting animatedly — but each was twiddling an empty wine glass. I got “the Biblical look” from my wife to hurry up. Remember the wedding feast at Cana? “They have no wine”? I resumed twisting.
The tip of the corkscrew skidded across the top.
I pushed down, really hard.
The tip went to the bottom and the wings extended.
I tried to push down on the wings.
They went down. The corkscrew came up, right back through the bottle top, carrying a few drops of red wine with it.
By now, the diners were casting “side eye” glances at me.
I tried once more. Same result.
Humiliated, I brought bottle, corkscrew thingie and knife into the dining area and set them on the table.
She was familiar with the brand and the bottling technique.
It was, of course, a screw-off lid, not a cork stopper.
I fulsomely thanked the woman who, at half my size, had released the wine.
I even drank my share.
But from now on, if you bring me wine, you open it.
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