Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Child's Guide to Wine

Wine makes Mommy and Daddy happy. Sometimes they drink wine together. Sometimes they drink wine alone. Sometimes they drink wine with one of your “uncles” or “aunts,” the ones you see naked by mistake. If you’re ever an uncle, you hope you aren’t so hairy down there.

But what is wine? What does it do that makes adults so happy? Why aren’t you allowed to drink any wine? And why does it smell like that? It always reminds you of the school janitor’s breath. You don’t think you’ll ever want to drink wine when you grow up. Wine isn’t for healthy adults. It makes them talk funny and extra loud. Mommy and Daddy love wine more than they love you.

Let’s try to understand wine, how it’s made and what it does to you.

You can make wine from any fruit, but the wine your parents drink is usually made from grapes. Not the grapes you buy from the grocery store, those are for eating, or inserting into any of the many holes in your body. That’s fun! See how far you can shoot them!

Wine is made from tiny little grapes that are grown in special places called “vineyards.” There are vineyards everywhere! But the best wines are made from grapes grown in just the best places in the world, like Burgundy and Napa Valley and Italy. Your parents probably don’t drink those wines. They are very expensive. Your parents drink wines from places like Modesto and Chile and Trader Joe’s. They should be ashamed. But I know they are not. Mommy says, “I can’t tell the difference between expensive wine and cheap wine.” This is probably the truth. Then she says, “But I know what I like!” Tell Mommy that’s what your Little League coach says when he puts his hands on your private places.

The people that own the vineyards hire poor people to pick the grapes when they are ripe. Poor people need jobs and will do anything. That’s how you know a job is horrible. Rich people pay poor people to do it. But it makes our life great. Remember to say "Thank You" to poor people when you see them. Be grateful. They made your expensive shoes and your sister’s iPhone. Remind the poor people that we are all one human race, that there is no “i” in iPhone. Well, there is, but the “P” is bigger, just like after Daddy drinks a lot of wine.

The grapes go in big trucks to where the wine is made. Can you guess what that place is called where they make wine? That’s right! It’s called a winery. Just like the place where they bake stuff is called a “bakery,” and where your grownup parents go with your "uncles" and "aunts" is the “adultery.”

At the winery, the grapes are gently pressed until all the juice can leak out. When Mommy’s not home, you can try this on your little brother. The grape juice sits around for about two weeks. While it’s sitting in the winery, little tiny living things get into the grape juice and turn it into wine. These are called cellar rats. No, that’s a little joke, kids. Cellar rats are the people who work in the winery. They’re just like real rats, only real rats live in nicer holes.

Little tiny living things called “yeast” get into the wine. Yeast are simple, one-celled organisms, sort of like Jehovah’s Witnesses. The yeast eat the sugar in the grape juice. They don’t even have mouths, so we don’t know how they eat the sugar. If they don’t have a mouth, can you even call it “eating?” There are lots of mysteries about wine.

To replace all the sugar they’ve eaten without a mouth, the yeast leave alcohol behind. Just like your sloppy aunt had to. The process of the yeast eating the sugar without a mouth and leaving behind some alcohol is called “fermentation.” This is the most important part of making wine because wine without alcohol is worthless. Your Daddy may talk endlessly about how the wine smells, and how it tastes like fruit you never heard of, like “lychee” and “cat piss,” and how the wine is a little young and needs some more time (like your babysitter!), but the reason Daddy and Mommy are drinking the wine is the alcohol.

Alcohol affects the brains of your parents. A little bit, and they are happy. But too much, and sometimes their brains don’t work right. You know how you like to spin around and spin around and spin around with your eyes closed until when you stop you aren’t able to stand up anymore and you feel like throwing up? That’s just like drinking wine! It’s funny, isn’t it, to try to walk after that! You crash into stuff, and fall down. Like when Daddy comes home late from a “business meeting” and smells like motel soap. That’s the work of our friends, yeast.

Remember, yeast are what cause two important processes—fermentation, and trial separation.

When fermentation is over, the grape juice is now called “wine.” But it’s not finished. It doesn’t taste very good right away, and someone has to make it taste better so that Daddy and Mommy can get their alcohol. That person is called a “winemaker.”

Just about anyone can become a winemaker. You don’t really need to know very much to be one. Maybe one day you’ll want to be a winemaker. If you don’t really like school and need a career, winemaker is a good choice. You don’t even need to be very good at it! There are lots of winemakers who don’t have a clue. I’m thinking this just might be the perfect job for you when you grow up. I hope you’re not a girl. The wine business is about old men, like Congress or Beano. Maybe when you grow up, that will be different. That’s another little joke, kids, nothing ever changes!

The winemaker has to do something with the grape juice that the yeast ate without a mouth and made into wine. Usually the winemaker puts the wine into something to hold it until it tastes better. It can be a barrel made out of oak, or it might be a big tank made from stainless steel, or it might even be a cement egg! Where do you find a cement egg? Look for a chicken with a butt that goes round and round! The wine sits in the barrel, or the stainless steel tank, or the cement egg until the winemaker decides it tastes good. Mostly, he just pretends to know.

Whether the wine tastes good or not, the winemaker puts it into a bottle. Then it goes to a bunch of old men so they can give it a number. These old men are called “wine critics.” This is another job you might consider that doesn’t require schooling, or knowledge, or talent! Sounds perfect for you, doesn’t it?

More about that another day.


Charlie Olken said...

I rather think you sell wine critics short--and so I have made a list of things that a wine critic must be able to do.

Five Things A Wine Critic Must Be Able To Do

--Count to 100—although if the truth be known, a wine critic really only needs to be able to count from 85 to 100.
--Be able to tell red wine from white. This might seem to be more basic even than being able to count, but it isn’t. If you get the numbers wrong, no one is going to listen no matter how good you think that 893,452 point Grenache may be.
--Understand that not everything named Pinot is good regardless of how low its alcohol is. But, Pinot Chardonnay is a damned fine grape and deserves to carry the Pinot name like it did forty years ago. Only old wine critics, and a few old sommeliers, know that fact.
--Be wary of Spanish wines because nothing coming out of Spain is made from Pinot of any stripe.
--Have a high tolerance for alcohol because those old men do like their ripe wines. It is a widely known fact that no IPOB wine ever scored 100 points.

Ed C said...

Ron, this may be the funniest thing you've ever written which is disappointing since that means it is unlikely you'll ever write anything this good again. Although it is, admittedly, a low bar to reach (saved you the trouble there.)

Unknown said...

Hilarious that a cricket drinks wine too. This is not a book for children. They have zero interest in what (silly/serious) grown-ups drink; nor do they have skin in the "wine" game. But, if it was Hosemaster's Series on Wine for college kids under a title like "100 Things That Neither Your Dad Nor Professor Can Teach You", it could be Amazon's bestseller. Or it could be Dummy 101 for suckers: I wish I knew It When I Was Younger. Cheers.

Marcia Macomber said...

Ah, Fractured Wine Fairytales are just around the corner, I see! Well done. Points for Charlie too on his "Five Things...."

PaulG said...

"Yeast are simple, one-celled organisms, sort of like Jehovah’s Witnesses." More please! This is great stuff.

Unknown said...

As a new parent, I feel like you left out an important piece of information for the children to know: "Wine is what prevents your parents from killing you when you won't stop crying".

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Common Taters,
One thing about writing a piece that is simple comedy, not opinion, is that the readers are inspired to be funny as well. Charlie, Bravo! And thanks, Susan, as always, the world needs an actual wine book that speaks the truth, and you're on the right track. Gabe, that's exactly right, I'm sure. It's what I meant by Mommy and Daddy love wine more than they love you.

I don't think I'm done with this premise. It's fun to write one-liners, like the one PaulG mentioned, and there's something appealing about ostensibly speaking to children. Almost everyone in the biz acts like a child, why not speak to them that way?

And, as a side note, if I write comedy or satire, I get equivalent hits to when I write opinion, but far fewer comments. So it's like a vacation, almost. But I love my common taters, and am convinced that HoseMaster of Wine™ would be nothing without them. So thanks to those of you who show up and contribute. I love silly. Save the sacrosanct and "expertise" for STEVE! Wine is supposed to be fun. I'd think wine blogs should be the same. They rarely are. Except, I hope, here.

David said...


Ridiculously fantastic piece. I'll buy the book immediately...
Now I know what to read aloud tonight for my 5 year old son before he sleeps.
I have already tried to discuss wine with him on several occasions - he´s most probably a better "smeller" than I am (especially when I've already had half a magnum of wine).
And by reading this for him, he´ll be able to understand why wine is so important for mum and (especially) dad. I truly agree with Gabe - wine is imperative for the welfare of parents and keeps them from going bonkers.


Aaron said...

You are a bad, bad man. Please write more of this!

Unknown said...

I think you missed out the most fundamental lesson and that is that wine is why most children are ever born in the first place!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks! One thing for sure, reading this to your son will certainly put him to sleep.

Oh, I think I will have to do a few more chapters. So much more to tell the kiddies. Wine is so complex!

I didn't want to get into the whole birds and the bees thing--the book is for children! Though we might be able to discuss self-pollination, which can ruin the sheets.

Bob Henry said...

"Breaking news" . . .

How has this been overlooked by the mainstream wine press and blogosphere?

Ron is the inspiration, the very muse for a wine on the market: