Tag Archives: tastedc

Does America Have “Poor Wine Self-Esteem”?


Does America Have Poor “Wine Self-Esteem”

I saw the awesome Gary Vay – Ner – Chuk on his #aucrush #crushit “Crush It” book tour this past Wednesday at American University’s Kogod College of Business. I wasn’t just seeing Gary to hear about his book, but frankly I had a bit of an agenda: I wanted to promote my own book “I Drink on the Job” on his fun web show Wine Library TV (I have good news at the conclusion of this Blog Post!). Since I obviously wanted to draw some attention to myself in an audience of 200+ mostly college students, I wanted to ask a relevant question about wine to get Gary’s point of view. I was so excited/thrilled when the Moderator pointed at me to ask a question, I literally jumped up in the air, I was really pumped up by the show!

My question for Gary was about American’s “confusion” with wine and what he thought the problem was. In usual Gary fashion, probably the most quotable man in the wine business as well as all of Wine 2.0, he spewed out one-liners like “We’re stuck on 16 adjectives”, “People have no wine self-esteem”, and “I’ve seen grown men sweat at a business dinner..” His key point was that there’s a lack of what he calls “wine self-esteem” in the U.S. I thought this was something to delve into further because it’s one of the main reasons that I wrote my book “I Drink on the Job”.

According to Wikipedia Definition “Self-esteem”: “Self-esteem” is a term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. According to Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV WineLibraryTV, his newest book “Crush It” Crush It and many other entrepreneurial ventures, this is the biggest “problem” among American wine consumers today. Here’s the UStream Video of the event Gary Vaynerchuk Video at AU Crush It (I’m at about the 36th minute, he definitely noticed me!).

Throughout my book, I mention episodes of tension with American wine consumers in the real world. Examples include the woman who almost fainted when she found out I had purchased wines with screw top closures for her corporate event, the gentleman who almost went ballistic when I suggested that Robert Parker may not in fact be a “wine God”, and the woman who would not accept a pour of wine from me – at a wine tasting! Throughout my twelve year career in wine, I have experienced so much wine anxiety that I think Gary hit it right on the head – it’s actually American’s lack of “wine” self-esteem. Much of the proof of this is anecdotal, but when I teach TasteDC’s TasteDC Website wine course Wine Basics 101, I get the same questions over and over again: what do the “legs” of wine mean, is a more expensive wine a better wine, how long should a wine age, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the questions, in fact, I think it’s very healthy to have strong curiosity about wine. I think the problem is that too many people believe there is in fact a right and a wrong answer. Too many wine professionals portray wine as something “difficult”, “complicated” and “mystical” – why else would they “de-mystify” wine? You only de-mystify, what is a mystery. What if wine professionals simply told new wine consumers to try a wine first and see if that person gains pleasure or to make wine part of daily meals? I spend over 200 pages in my book “I Drink on the Job” portraying wine as an everyday staple – drink it every day with your meals and the mystery disappears like the secrets to a magic trick. Once you get past the “illusion” of wine, it becomes an enjoyable part of your day, and a way to improve the pleasure of your meals.

As I always like to say: “Drink first, ask questions later”..but of course, I’m..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler


Wine Book Tour Thoughts

Charlie Adler - Drinking on the Job!

Charlie Adler - Drinking on the Job!

I’m putting together the finishing touches on the book “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine”. Right now, I’m organizing the photoshoot and working on the book website. FYI, http://www.idrinkonthejob.com will change from being the blog itself into being the website for the book. In other words, The blog will be one of the links on the website, but the overall site will include excerpts from the book (like “nobody ever dies from a bad food and wine pairing”), a Calendar to find me on tour, photos, videos and details on how to reach me. My goal is to be a major wine speaker at wine festivals throughout the U.S. and possibly some international venues. I expect to increase my exposure to corporate event planners who are looking for an entertaining speaker who can also educate their audience with common sense anecdotes that will help them improve their ability to choose a wine..Oh, and of course, being a better wine “chooser” makes a person a better employee, leader, and overall great person – yeeowww!!

If you represent any wine festivals, feel free to contact me at wine@tastedc.com. My twitter account at idrinkonthejob went active and live about two weeks ago and I’m adding followers at a good pace. My intent is to use Twitter to give quick anecdotes of my tour and things I learn and experience while out and about and tasting. I love my Blackberry Storm and it really helps me to quickly take photos, blog, Tweet and even add video. My message is both to the Newbie wine consumer and to the industry as well: anyone can quickly get started in wine, all they have to do is think of wine as part of a meal. Keep it simple and don’t worry about the details, drink first, ask questions later, there are so many excellent choices, it’s best to learn as you go!

OK, back to drinking on the job, have a great football Sunday everyone – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

I Drink, Therefore I Am!

Charlie "I Drink on the Job" Adler

I’m taking a slightly new direction on this blog – I’ll continue to update you on my wine and food experiences, but I want to refocus my efforts on my upcoming book “I Drink On the Job” and the process of publishing (self) a book on wine. Since I recently submitted my manuscript of just over 58,000 words for a 2nd edit to my publisher http://www.booksurge.com, I’m expecting a completed work of a bit over 200 pages by the end of 2009 – well, or a few weeks after! No one can properly warn you of the pitfalls of self-publishing, but hopefully in the end I’ll look favorably on the experience.

My current book experience is now is the time to think about cover design and promoting the end product. This is a book about my experiences in wine with a heavy dose of humor as well as interesting anecdotes and practical knowledge shared with the reader. Hopefully, it’s an engaging story – you never know how people perceive one of your own life experiences, but some things just seem too absurd or real not to titillate the reader. I start off early in the book with a short vignette on the woman who was stuck in the bathroom stall at the French Embassy at a wine tasting I was holding there. There are many stories of awkward situations where I’m trying to discuss wine intelligently, but always a complicated situation “arises”. The reality of being a wine professional in the U.S. is that there is so much interest in wine but so much poor or outdated information, that misunderstandings are natural. I take a positive spin on these type of reactions, sometimes people want more out of life but they simply don’t know how to express that. As the song says “whatever gets you through the night, itsalright, its alright..”

I’m meeting with a few “foodie” publicists in the next few days and I’m hoping that one of them takes the lead and sees the value of having a writer who knows something about their subject, is passionate and can handle any Press obligations. My job for twelve years has been as a combination wine professional, foodie, educator and public speaker. I’ve been in front of the TV camera around a dozen times and to me it’s just a natural part of telling my story. In the world of the internet and online marketing, you have to keep your message short, sweet and to the point, and that is how I have always approached my business, it has to be relevant today. Social Media appeared a few years ago and I dove right in – when ask me if I think Facebook or Twitter are for real, I tell them that they are more than just realities, they are part of the world we live in like TV, internet or satellite. I’m a quick learner, and I think Facebook and Twitter in particular have changed the way we communicate, mostly for the better. I want to get “I Drink on the Job’s” message to my target audience of newbie wine drinkers who are looking for a lifestyle change.


Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler

Is Taste “Personal”?

Don't Clow Around with Your Cheese!

Don't Clow Around with Your Cheese!

Is tasting wine, cheese or any other foodstuff something your predestined with or something you learn? The “Nature vs. Nurture” argument fits tasting so well because we know so little about people’s ability to taste.  One day wine professionals are talking about “supertasters” http://supertastertest.com who have extra taste buds on their tongue which makes them super sensitive to bitter flavors and the next day (minute?) we’re teaching people what “cassis” tastes like http://www.wine-lovers-page.com/cgi-bin/lexicon/gd.cgi?w=246.  Can tasting be taught if your genes are predisposed to make you a tasting flunkie?

Since I’m writing a book I Drink On the Job right now about wine from the point of view of the Wine Basics 101 class that over 16,000 people have attended over the years at TasteDC, I’ve really been thinking about how people approach taste in wine classes, but cooking classes as well.  Often, people ask me how to “describe” a wine, I guess they want to better explain what they’re experiencing.  My weird reply is usually that we don’t know what you’re tasting, there is no way for us to measure that – yet anyway.  If I’m tasting a piece of fresh mint, I can say it tastes like “mint” and you can agree, but I don’t know what exactly is going on inside your mouth, much less your brain.  Many critics of frankly wine critics argue that we can’t have a true discussion about the objective quality of wine until we can agree to the terms.  If new wine drinkers are relying on the accuracy of wine critics explanations in order to form their own tasting skills, how is this possible if there is no objective way to varify tastes?

In a society where science has become our religion, some technology people have attempted to break down how we taste from the receptors in tastes buds, to various tests of the brain’s response to aromatic stimuli.  I think this is exciting, but frankly missing the big point: much of what we taste is part of our past experiences.  I might be able to measure your brain wave response or see which parts of your brain are stimulated by certain smells, but what I can’t do is determine how your past experiences have effected that response.  I’m even going to venture a guess and say that about 90% of what we experience in taste has to do with our past experiences, and most people think about taste when they’re eating.  In a nutshell, no one should discount the effect of your family background and the times spent at the dinner table with them and the types of foods and beverages you consumed.  Many early wine drinkers have a sweet tooth and I’ve noticed that many of them were brought up with highly sweetened foods and beverages.  This kind of tasting “history” is cultural and seems to have the influence of making dry wines often seem unpalatable to these individuals.  The effect on taste is so significant that I’m not sure any change in future habits can get this person to enjoy a dry wine, a significant issue because over 95% of wines sold in the U.S. market are “dry”.

In the wine industry and some degree the food industry, we need to better understand how past experiences relate to taste.  Expectations of taste may effect us more than what we’re actually experiencing in our mouth, and this is one of the reason’s that people prefer more expensive wines if they are told the price before they taste themhttp://www.wine-economics.org/workingpapers/AAWE_WP35.pdf, while in actuality, most new wine drinkers actually prefer cheaper wines by “taste” if they don’t know the price of the wine.  I don’t know which will win in the Nature vs. Nurture argument, but I will be willing to guess that one of the biggest influences concerning tasting wine will for the new consumer will be time – the more wine becomes part of our regular meal and tasting experiences, the more comfortable and knowledgeable we will become relating to our tasting it – the classic reply I have to “what am I tasting” should be only time will tell..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

What Wine Goes with PB&J?


They don’t stress much about drinking New Zealand wines in France – there is plenty of great wine in a French person’s backyard.  So why is it Americans stress out so much about choosing the right wine with say a French dish like Ratatouille when a French wine from say the Languedoc would work fine?  What is it as Americans that we expect from a wine and food pairing – a result of perfection where we can tell all of our compatriots how we successfully completed a veritably impossible task, matching the flavors of a dish with an unknown wine? Maybe we should study up on the world of wine, learn more about the intricacies of Gruner Veltliner from Austria and how it’s put this varietal on the map, or maybe we should read a few books on wine and food pairing to avoid that embarassing faux pas when we mistakenly ordered a Brut Champagne with our P,B &J when it should have been at least Extra-Dry or even sweeter?  Oh, why can’t this be so much easier, why can’t they just put little labels on food telling us what goes and doesn’t go, why do we have to use our feeble brains??

That’s because the French eat French food everyday, and guess what wine they drink with it?  French – their wine goes great with their dishes, eat up!  This is all part of that horrifically difficult to explain “terroir”.  Most of what you read and hear about terroir in wine circles relates to the location the vines were grown, but you rarely hear about the producer side of the equation, what I like to call “Pride in Ownership”. The tradition of drinking and eating local products created the pride in ownership that is part of terroir and what makes localities compete to make the best products.  Just like a New Yorker will bitch to no end about how bad the bagels are outside of New York (must be the water?), a Frenchman will claim that their regions chevre (goat cheese) is better than even the neighboring villages.  That cheese comes from a local goat, which was fed on local grasses and vegetation and its manure was used to fertilize the vines, or possibly it ate the weeds between the vines.  The French drink French wine most of the time as do the Italians and the Spanish not only because it’s cheaper for them and readily available, but they connect emotionally with their own produced wine and cuisine.  Being fussy about wine doesn’t make sense because it’s something consumed with everyday meals, normally lunch and dinner.  You eat local and you drink local because you know what tastes best.

Americans are still developing our pride in our own products and sometimes it embarasses us – once I was at a French Burgundy wine tasting early in my career at TasteDC in Washington, D.C. and I mentioned half-jokingly that one of the wines might taste great with a good cheeseburger and french fries – I got a look like I had just committed a sacrilege!  Wine was meant to be consumed with “real” food, not casual foods that were not worthy of their lofty reputations.  I had offended the American luxury ethic – thou shalt not enjoy any luxury without tight-lipped apprehension – how dare I, Charlie Adler, a non-wine expert at the time, attempt to create an unofficial food and wine pairing!  Call in an expert, food and wine pairing is rocket science, you need a degree in oenology even before you should be allowed to remove the cork!

OK, this seems a bit facetious, but if you had been consuming wine in the 90’s, you met quite a few people with sour puss demeanors.  Even the idea that someone would pair wine with something as mundane as a sandwich, much less a PB&J was considered to be preposterous and very uncouth.   Times have changed, wine is prevalent and available everywhere from supermarket and in some cases to the corner 7/11.  You don’t need a degree to enjoy wine with food, just do what the French do – eat and drink local.  So now that I’m serving Virginia ham with some local cheeses, I’ll choose a wine that..wait, isn’t ham salty and that will have a chemical effect on tannin?  Well then, I better not choose a wine that’s too tannic, it will..

Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler

Red Wine with Fish

Tsk, Tsk, Red Wine with Fish - He's a Fraud!!

Tsk, Tsk, Red Wine with Fish - He's a Fraud!!

How important is wine and food pairing as part of the wine tasting/learning experience?  Whole chapters have been written about this subject, even books, so one might assume that it’s mandatory for wine drinkers to understand all the nuances of food and wine pairing before they start opening bottles of wine.  I mean, you don’t want to be embarrassed like the fellow above in the James Bond From Russia with Love who gave away his lack of sophistication and his cred’s when he chose a red wine to be consumed with fish – a 1960’s faux pas, definitely a sign of poor upbringing, he probably attended public schools, the shame!!

A recent article which was Tweeted to me over at “tastedc” brought new light to the subject or at least rang true to my ears –Perils of Food and Wine Matching. Essentially, this article introduces a classic wine dilemma – what if a wine doesn’t taste very good on its own, but when paired with food, it is fantastic, sort of 1+1=3?  Is the wine good or bad?  And what about creativity and innovation in wine and food pairing, do we want to have people memorize and repeat like Zombies rules that may be outdated like “white wine with fish, and red wine with meat”, and “Chablis with oysters”?  The dilemma seems to be that people often believe that there is in fact a right or wrong wine choice, and if they get it wrong, they will somehow suffer for the mistake. It’s already difficult enough getting started consuming wine, I mean you have unintelligible foreign labels, combined with strange/confusing terminology like “on the lees” or “39% new French Oak”, plus thousands of choices, now you add the question “what food fits best with this wine?” to the equation, and frankly, I can imagine why most people skip wine and stick with beer!

I have a whole chapter on wine and food pairing in my upcoming book I Drink On the Job, but I still want to state for the record that I think wine and food pairing doesn’t matter much – yes, there are excellent pairings, but as often as not, I’ve found by breaking the rules, you can actually discover better pairings.  How did I know when I opened a bottle of a $9 bottle (2000 price) Virginia Cabernet Franc that it would go excellent with my Szechuan Beef?  Of course I love the traditional Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese, but one time I had it with a very untart example, and the wine went flat.  And how about a wine with a little sweetness like an off-dry German Riesling that went reasonably well with sushi, but really was fantastic when I added the pickled ginger to the equation!  How many combinations of food and wine are there anyway, do we actually expect people to memorize them BEFORE they actually unscrew the cap of wine and start imbibing?  I think not!

I say, break all the rules and let people start from scratch.  I’m no patriot, but the stodgy old wine and food rules are just that, restraints on the individual’s right to experiment and frankly get it wrong.  I say purposefully “unmatch” the food and wine, Get a big, bold red wine and pair it with oysters, eat a goat cheese with Port, try a steak with a white Burgundy, see what happens.  As part of this experimentation, I taught the wine portion of a TasteDC (www.tastedc.com) class on American Cheese 101 class I put out inexpensive samples of Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chianti and Cabernet Sauvignon and I told the audience that I wouldn’t suggest any combinations until the participants had tried the cheese and wine pairings FIRST!  It may have seemed that I was torturing the attendees (I’m notorious for pushing the envelope and getting attendees a tad bit out of their “comfort zone”) but all I was trying to do was see if any light bulb appeared above people’s heads, if anyone jumped out of their seat and yelled “Eureka, this combination is Fantastico!” or if faces looked bitter and unpleasant after an especially bad pairing.  Interestingly, neither happened, except for the one wine “pro” in the class who was confident of her decisions (thank you Ellen for your observations!), everyone pretty much looked to the “wine expert” (me!) for a nod of approval or disapproval.

Conclusion: Wine and food pairing is not particularly important, but because most Americans find wine to be pretty much a total enigma, they don’t trust their own senses yet.  Time will tell, and hopefully with more Americans consuming wine over the coming years, we will see more interesting wine and food combinations, and for that matter, beer and food, whisky and food, and even Sake and food..Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler

Why Do We Need a New Wine Book?

Classic self-reflection on my new book “I Drink On the Job” but I’m also writing to inform future readers that, yes, the book is coming along nicely!  OK, it will not be out until early 2010, I missed my original publishing date by 12 months or so, but it’s a first book. C’MON!!

So what did I change in the book?  My biggest problem was trying to write a book just like every other “Introduction to Wine” book: I tried to cover all the bases from A to Z.  The original idea was to write about my experiences, then I decided to make it about wine in general.  Well, I’ve decided to take a middle road, but with a “Charlie” twist.  Yes, the book will be a little about me, but just the good bits (not too nasty!), a few situations (the lady stuck in the bathroom stall at the French Embassy), and lot’s of info on wine, but…well…it’s not trying to be like other Intro to Wine books…I just simply got tired of trying to breakdown Burgundy and other world wine regions.  If you want a book that teaches you about all the nuances of the top 50 grape varietals and how they show their character in different growing regions, I Drink on the Job simply won’t do it..

What the book WILL do is make you laugh (VERY situational humor a la Seinfeld) and open a new wine drinker’s eyes to new possibilities.  Why try to write the same book that’s already been written when I have the personality, background and frankly Balls to just tell my story the way it is..Let the critics come out and go after me, let the wine people say that the book is inaccurate, whatever, it will be CHARLIE’S book!

Thanks for listening, gotta job to do!

Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler