I’m sure it was the first time the guy ever had anyone walk into his store and ask for the worst product he had on the shelves. He said, “Are you kidding?” I told him that I was dead serious. I wanted to buy the worst red wine he had in the store. He was polite in his response, indicating that if a wine were really awful then he wouldn’t be stocking it. I apologized and asked, “Then just give me something really cheap.” He directed me to a bottom shelf near the cash register, obviously a location that was easily accessible for anyone not able to walk the length of the store. He had three brands, all for three dollars a bottle. I asked, “Which one’s the worst?” He frowned. “Okay,” I said, “which would you least like to drink?” He pointed to a bottle labeled “Night Train Express.” He said, “That stuff’s pretty bad.” I reminded him that he’d just told me that he carried no bad wines. “Okay, it’s the least good in the store.”
The guy thought I was done shopping, but I interrupted his checkout. “Now I want a really good red wine.” He stared. “I can’t afford your most expensive, so show a red that people really like. . . something kind of classy. . . you know.” This was obviously a harder question for the guy for it took a few minutes for him to walk down to the expensive end of the aisle, finally settling on a classy-looking bottle. “Lots of folks say this is their favorite.” He held up a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. I asked him how to pronounce it and he said, “French wine.” He went on . . “It’s full-bodied and gripping when it’s young.” Now this completely blew me away. I didn’t know wine could grip you unless the music was hot and the lights were low. I bought the wine and hurried out of the store before it began gripping me.
This is the AARP’s fault. Anyone who’s approached 65 knows that this organization can see you coming and they send you a constant catheter of applications until you finally succumb and join up. I’m not knocking the AARP. It’s one of the best organizations I’ve joined, and their monthly magazine is well worth the read. Last month they practically begged all us old-timers to start drinking one glass of red wine a day. They recommended doing this at supper knowing that the average AARP member isn’t much good after that hour anyway. Red wine is touted to help your heart, stave off some types of cancer, and help you sleep. I’d seen this advice given in various publications over the years, but the AARP is known for carefully researching things and so I thought I’d try it.
Only one problem: I’m not a wine drinker and therefore don’t know diddly-squat about this nectar of the gods. So, to educate myself on the subject I thought I’d buy a really lousy bottle and a great one to see if I could notice a difference. If I was going to become a wino then I want to do so as cheaply as possible. If I can’t tell the difference, then why pay extra?
A quick Google inquiry told me that I shouldn’t drink them back-to-back at the same sitting. Frankly, I knew that if I tried both then sitting is just what I’d be doing for the rest of the night. However, I was afraid that my taste buds’ memory wouldn’t last 24 hours so I set up my wine tasting one night when I had no other engagements. I poured two small glasses of wine, put them on my kitchen table, and sat them before me. With no wine glasses available I used a paper cup and an Illinois College coffee mug. I should have put them in similar glasses so I could mix them up with my eyes closed and sip without knowing which was which, but alas, I found I didn’t own two identical drinking receptacles. Such is the life of a bachelor who doesn’t entertain at home. I poured the expensive brew into the college mug, fearing the ghosts of dead presidents Sturtevant, Rammelkamp, and Pixley would haunt me if I allowed three-dollar wine to waft over their beloved logo.
So. It came time to sip. I’d seen this in movies. I first took a careful sniff of each wine. No biggie. My nasal congestion wouldn’t allow me to judge anything with my nose. I first tried the “Night Train Express,” thinking how much that sounded like a band playing in one of the Jacksonville bars. Tasted like soda pop. Then I took a drink of the expensive French stuff. Tasted like old soda pop. Dern. I’d learned nothing. I’d kept the copy of the AARP magazine and scanned down the other health tips in the article, including jogging, dieting, daily exercise and aerobics. I took another drink of wine.