I have a confession to make: I never had a wine epiphany.
No single bottle slapped me in the face and announced, “Nice of you to finally notice me. I will now dominate a large portion of your thoughts and income. Enjoy the journey, my friend.”
I cannot recall the full name and vintage of a single bottle that changed my life forever. I don’t remember where I was when I drank it or where I bought it, what I ate with it, obscure facts about the winemaker and vineyard. I do not speak fondly about it, as if it were a past love. This bottle does not exist for me.
Nope, I fell into wine purely by chance: I needed a job during university and happened to land one at a local wine shop. Much to my future benefit, it happened to be an independent store, owned and managed by people who actually knew and cared about wine. (I shudder to think how I would have turned out had I worked at one of those faceless chain liquor stores.) It was at this store that I began tasting wine and quickly found that I liked it. Again, no single bottle did it. Rather, it was the steady progression over the first summer I worked there, the line-up of weekly tastings that persuaded me this wine thing was worth pursuing.
I was the odd one out in that store: the only other woman who worked there was the part-time accountant and she left within a couple weeks of my start date. All the other employees were men over the age of 30. Actually, all except one were well over 40. I’m sure they found me amusing and irritating in kind, a naive 19-year-old woman who had stumbled in by chance and could barely lift those 30-pound cases of wine. (Though I could, within half a day of working there, work the cash register better than anyone else – despite it being a year older than I was.)
When I think back on those days, it seems as though wine was always going to become a part of my life. It was the same as for several other big revelatory moments in my life – I don’t remember the big revelation and instead just immediately integrated the new knowledge into my life. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy? I carry no childhood trauma stemming from the discovery that my parents had been lying to me about these things all along. At some point I just knew there was no way those things were real; this belief was instantly integrated into my life forever after. (It’s possible I simply assumed, from an early age, that all adults were liars and therefore it wasn’t a surprise when this assumption was verified.)
For a long time I felt like I carried some dirty little secret because I didn’t have a wine epiphany story to share with other wine geeks. It’s quite a common question in the industry and I was always afraid someone would confront me with it. “What was the wine that did it for you?” they’d ask, and I’d stare at them, mute.
I’ve since decided this actually meant I was fated to work with wine all along. I didn’t need a special bottle to prove this to me. Rather, I had a whole store of bottles who greeted me when I walked into that shop on the first day of work so many years ago: “Oh, hello. Get comfortable. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”