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Sour Grapes

by Stephen Lautens

March 5, 1999

I'm all in favour of people who can do things for themselves. If you can change your own oil, build a dresser or do your own taxes, my hat's off to you.

You'll be a useful person to know when the millennium comes and we're all running around cold and in the dark, and being pursued by demon space monkeys, or whatever.

But I still think there are a few things that are better left to the professionals. Surgery comes to mind. Alligator wrestling is another. Maybe flying a commercial jetliner too, if I happen to be a passenger.

Otherwise, I'm all in favour of enthusiastic amateurs.

With the possible exception of home-made wine.

I'm far from a wine snob. My wine choices usually have a lot more to do with the picture on the outside of the bottle than what's in it. Show me a label with a bird or a butterfly - and under eight bucks - and I'm on my way home with a brown bag under one arm.

Words like "oaky", "grassy" and "flinty" are lost on me. They mostly make me think of what falling flat on your face in a field would taste like.

Even with the palate of a peasant, I still think wine making is best left to the experts.

The problem is everyone now has friends who are members of wine-making clubs. They get together with like-minded people to mix up 40 gallons of White Zinfandel.

At least the days of making it in the downstairs bathroom are gone. Stores have sprung up all over that will supply you with the ingredients and equipment to become Ernest and/or Julio Gallo.

You can stir up a batch and forget it until bottling time. It sounds like a good idea in theory, except you end up taking a hundred bottles of the stuff home.

And there's nothing more appetizing than wine served out of an old ketchup bottle. Except maybe wine in a bottle you know was scrounged from a neighbour's recycling bin.

I went to a wedding a while back. At the reception the bride announced that her first husband was supplying the wine as his wedding present. In normal circumstances I'd think it was quite a generous and sportsmanlike gesture.

Until I tasted the wine.

The label said chardonnay, but it should have been called "Ex-husband's Revenge". It could take the silver off the cutlery. My fillings hadn't been so bright and shiny in years.

My friends like to pull the old switcheroo on me. I take a bottle of wine over for dinner, but it sits on the counter while a bottle of "Chateau John & Mary" is served. And it's always the extra big bottle that you know you couldn't get through if your life depended on it.

Call me ungracious (okay, I am ungracious) but it's like bringing over steaks and then sitting down to a mess of hotdogs.

Sure, their love and effort went into it, but it's going into me. More importantly, it has to fight its way past my taste buds first.

I repeat that some things are best left to the experts, especially if the difference is only a few bucks.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take out my own appendix. How hard could that be?


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