Wine has always fallen into one of two categories for me: ways that college kids embarrass themselves, and ways useless cultural capital makes some people better than others (See chart below). That being said, I’m twenty-five and began to drink alcohol a year and a half ago, so I never had much to work with.
I’m pleased to say that after touring the vineyard and winery Cousiño Macul and watching the documentary Somm, I now have enough knowledge to appreciate wine. Theoretically.
After five years, three winery tours, and finally tasting wine, my wine knowledge has grown substantially and can be summed up by the informative video below:
Touring Cousiño Macul
Since its founding in 1856, Cousiño Macul has remained under the complete ownership of the Cousiño family, which sets it apart from other vineyards established in the 19th century. Six generations later, the cultivation and production is split between the Macul site and another site in Buin. However, the Macul site gets all the action, in part because of its beautiful and historic French construction. (Side note, Macul is mapudungun for “right hand.”)
Why here? One of the great things about Chilean wines is that the weather and soil conditions are ideal for producing wine grapes:
- vineyards receive a lot of sunlight;
- the proximity to the Andes means a huge variation in daytime and nighttime temperatures, which helps maintain the grapes’ acidity;
- it basically only rains in the winter, which keeps the grapes safe from many fungi and other threats;
- there are plenty of sloped landscapes…
…the list goes on.
And so, Chilean wine is increasingly popular worldwide: around 65 percent of Cousiño Macul’s wine production is exported around the world.
It is also because they keep their gender bias in tact. You will be pleased to know that the grapes are hand-picked by women. Because we are more delicate. Which is also why there are more female surgeons than male surgeons… right?
For information on hours, directions, and booking a tour, check out the vineyard’s website here. A tour costs $9.000, which includes wine tasting and a special Cousiño Macul wine glass.
Drinking vs. Tasting: Story Time!
Edwin, Charles, and I chose the perfect time for a winery tour. The weather was gorgeous, but apparently not too many people are interested in drinking wine at eleven o’clock on a Wednesday morning.
Consequently, we had Álvaro—chef, sommelier, and tour guide extraordinaire—all to ourselves. And we were prepared to shamelessly ask more questions than he’d probably heard all year… I warned him that we knew nothing about wine.
We passed the time asking questions, “tasting” wine, and joking about wine culture (read: I was probably mocking more than simply joking). At some point, Charles offered that a certain wine “smelled strong.”
Álvaro replied, “Yes, it has an important aroma.”
I couldn’t help but comment: the difference between a sommelier and your everyday wine drinker is that the former knows that wine has “an important aroma”—NOT a strong smell.
Our ignorance must have become painful to Álvaro, because he finally responded to one of our questions with, “Ustedes están tomando el vino, no lo están degustando.” (“You guys are drinking the wine; you’re not tasting it.”)
He disappeared for a moment, returning with a wine glass, which he waved around until the cardboard smell was gone from inside it. And then he did exactly what the wine snob in the video above had told me to do.