My friends and I have a weekly tradition we affectionately call Winesday. For the past couple years, every Wednesday night, regardless of any work that may be due the next morning, we take an hour or so and catch up over a bottle of wine. This weekly ritual has grown to be one of my most cherished memories at Yale.
Last April, I found a summer internship posting on Undergraduate Career Services for Bottlenotes, the leading digital media company in the wine industry. After being offered the job and spending an eye-opening summer working at the company’s headquarters in California, I quickly learned how little I actually knew about this complex product with its centuries of rich history.
After a number of visits to vineyards in Napa Valley, I came to understand the industry’s deep roots in Western society. Wine is the most celebrated expression of man’s relationship with the Earth, distilled into a consumable product. Wine allows you to travel the world and experience different cultures without leaving your barstool. I returned to Yale and Winesday with a newfound desire to savor wine as an art form.
I am not trying to discount the benefits of wine’s inebriating effects. A nice game of slap the bag can liven up any lame party. But when we transition out of our lives as college students, it is important to recognize that wine has a place beyond our pregame coffee tables.
Luckily, the best way to become a more seasoned wine drinker is also really fun — by drinking more wine. Drinking quality wine on a college budget may sound nearly impossible, but fortunately if you look around there are actually a number of opportunities for college students to drink free of charge.
First off, wine stores will often provide periodic tastings of their products. The Wine Thief on Crown Street offers in-store wine tastings every Friday evening from 5:00 to 8:00. And once in a while, there will be opportunities to taste fine wine even on campus. Tuesday afternoon, for example, Pierson will be hosting a Master’s Tea with Bottlenotes’ CEO Alyssa Rapp and co-founder Kim Donaldson. Following the tea, Rapp and Donaldson will be guiding students 21 and over through a tasting of six different wines from around the globe.
When you do venture into New Haven to buy a drink, know what you’re paying for. Restaurant mark-ups on wine are typically absurd. If you’re looking to split a bottle with friends, you’re usually better off bringing your own and paying the corkage fee than ordering one off the menu. Sometimes New Haven restaurants do offer good deals, especially during happy hours. Barcelona has one of the richest wine menus in New Haven, and they offer tasting portions that allow you to try a number of selections without getting too tipsy. Their happy hour also features five dollar glasses accompanied by free bar snacks. Ordinary also has a wonderful international wine selection, and they offer a 50 percent discount on bottles every Tuesday night.
If you decide to drink at home, put in a little extra effort to taste your wine properly. You’ve already spent money on buying the drinks, so it would really be a waste just to down the bottle without any sort of consideration to its contents. You may consider investing in actual wine glasses, with stems and all the works. Regardless of how much you spend, I promise the wine will taste infinitely better coming out of a glass than out of a Solo Cup.
Now that you’re properly equipped and ready to drink, take a moment to really observe the wine. What does it look like? How does it move in the glass? And most importantly, how does it smell? Wine experts claim that 85 percent of wine tasting is olfactory, so this step is crucial. Once you’ve completed this process, which doesn’t have to take more than a minute, then you’re ready to actually drink.
But in the end, I obviously do not want to take all the fun out of drinking wine. Although critics can pick apart the specific qualities of wine for hours, for our sake drinking wine is still a social practice and shouldn’t feel too much like academic work. Despite all the things I learned this summer, and the decades of wine experience I have yet to attain, there is one thing I know I had gotten right from the start: the best wine is served in the company of friends.
Bryce Wiatrak is a senior in Pierson College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.