Waiting in line for a droplet of wine is a maddening situation. The droplet itself won’t really alter your mental state, nor will it be sufficient to truly enjoy a full swig, but it’s the first of a long road of droplets from stingy wine pourers that will ultimately combine to make your night very enjoyable. Luckily, the Jerusalem Wine Festival is full of many such droplets.
To be fair, it could very well be that I’m missing the larger point of the wine festival, by focusing on quantity over quality. But I, like many others, represent a strong and growing pocket of people, dare I say the majority, who don’t come to the wine festival to taste and breathe in the smoky aromas of selected (lower case on purpose) wines. We, the people, come to the wine festival because there are never too many times one is allowed to ask a wine pourer “efshar od?” with a straight face.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How could I, Shlomo the sommelier, the wine bottle etiquette expert, preacher of wine as a form of social currency on a Friday night, be so brazen about my intentions with the wine festival? How could I be so brashly disregardful of the wine community?
The truth is, I love wine. I love it because it’s a classy prop for social mixing. I love it because it tastes exquisite. And I love it because the Talmud says that when the wine goes in, the secrets come out. What’s not to love about that? The question for me then, is how do I and so many other 20 and 30 something year olds respectfully navigate the intricacies of wine culture and inhale as much red wine as we can at a classy wine festival at the Israel Museum?
It starts with tone.
When approaching a wine pourer, don’t take on an aura of invincibility and arrogance – assume that the wine pourer can refuse your request. Engaging with a wine pourer, with words other than a request for wine, can go a long way. I’ve seen a simple 20 word conversation between wine seeker and wine pourer lead to 5 multiple wine pourings in the same interaction. Of course, the tone of one’s voice is paramount. Be respectful. And don’t make generic small talk. Ask how long the wine pourer has been working in the business. Be honest and say that you’ve never tasted this wine before and that you’re excited to do so. Chatting with a wine pourer is the single best strategy a wine seeker can employ.
Of course, there is the guilt factor. I’ve had my fair share of ebullient conversations with wine pourers, with the sole purpose of extracting just an ounce more of wine from their tight fisted grips on those stubbornly held wine bottles holding captive rivers of wide eyed wine just waiting to dance out of their bottles and into our glasses of bowl-shaped freedom. And with those conversations come boredom and guilt.
Asking about a wine can lead to some serious waiting-at-the-counter delays. By asking a wine pourer about the wine he or she is serving, you are opening up a mini Pandora’s box of information that will not benefit your wine seeking in any way.
I do feel bad that after asking an innocent question about a wine for the sheer sake of being polite, and perhaps with the intent of receiving just a bit more wine, I have a hard time paying attention to the answer. I find myself watching this earnest wine pourer going on in sincere fashion about the wine, and I’m just standing there like an insincere patron, waiting for the goods. It’s like when you cross a street after the light turns green, but the second you leave the sidewalk, the light turns red – obviously you’re not going to return back to the sidewalk – you have to continue to cross the street. But because it’s red, and you have a long journey ahead of you, you feel somewhat guilty that you’ve transgressed some sort of traffic code or violation. That’s how I feel when the wine pourer talks to me.
For what it’s worth, the Tabor wine booth/bar did a splendid job at handing out wine like candy men hand out candy corn at synagogues.
And even though my palette commands less than a droplet of respect from most wine drinkers, I was a big fan of this:
And yes, I did manage to pay attention during the pre-pouring speech: this wine is produced in the hills of Jerusalem.
I’m always a bit miffed when I see ciders and other alcoholic beverages at wine festivals. It’s similar to a Shabbat meal in which someone is tasked with bringing drinks, and he shows up with RC Cola and an unrecognizable orange drink. Sure, we’ll drink it, and maybe even secretly enjoy it, but we’re not going to write about it in an article. Okay, maybe just one mention of a delicious cider:
There was, however, one nameless booth that produced this vile liquid:
The above-pictured drink is proof that the best things in life are certainly not free. To be fair, my taste buds may have been altered by a combination of cider and pizza. Yes, pizza.
For the most part, all of the wines were enjoyable. Except for when one wine pourer convinced me to drink white wine. To clarify, I mostly despise white wine. Unless it has sugar and bubbles in it. But in addition to my abhorring it, I am a strong adherer of the dictum “thou shalt not drink white after red”. But some of these wine pourers just have a way with words. After all, they are all essentially wine experts, so who am I to disagree? So, I drank some white wine, and I loathed it. And I told the wine pourer how I felt. He put his hands up as if to say “this is a very popular wine, you’re in the minority here.” Needless to say, I felt the same way about this wine pourer that I do about a guy who shows up to a party at a bar but doesn’t order anything and when the bill comes and everyone frets over the large number, he proudly puts his hands up and reminds everyone that he didn’t order anything.
Aside from the questionable cocktail and the white wine episode, the Jerusalem Wine Festival was absolutely perfect. Where else does one experience hordes of people, all of whom are dressed nicely, in good moods, buoyed by unlimited drink, food on hand, bathroom stalls now inside the building (as opposed to the wretched porter potties from years past), a nice breeze, and an ambiance that can only be described as delightful. Hannah Schneiderman, originally from Texas and now living in Nachlaot, summed it up perfectly as she exclaimed: “The Jerusalem Wine Festival has replaced Disney World as the happiest place on earth.”
Hannah wasn’t far off with her sentiments. As I entered the festival, the press corps was taken to the strangest structure that I’ve ever seen, made from over 3200 bamboo poles.
We were told that we had permission to walk up this absolutely terrifying modern day tower of Babel, which I did so very cautiously. Hearing creaks from the stretchy bamboo sticks below my shoes made me roll my eyes and exclaim: “Oh, Jerusalem.”
Thankfully we were taken to the bamboo structure before the wine booths opened.
And of course, the wine festival does represent an uncomfortable truth that we all endured this summer, summed up perfectly by Rachel Jaret, originally from Boston and currently living in the center of town. “The wine festival, which was rescheduled, is instilling hope in us that we can go back to our routine and to calmer times. The overwhelming sentiment around here is certainly of relief to be able to end the summer on an optimistic note.”
Relief and optimism. Two things that every wine drinker should feel.
Disclaimer: My wine festival etiquette advice might be tainted due to my wearing a press wristband which I all-too-prominently displayed to every wine pourer and vendor.