The following post is a reprise of a newspaper article I wrote in 1992. It was subsequently published on the Dover Canyon Winery blog (which no longer exists). The post enjoyed viral hits and backlinks from all over the world. I'm sure poor Roger (pictured above) never expected to see his photo reprinted on hundred of sites. I hope he can take comfort in my opinion that he is not a cork dork, but a true geek.
Recently, at a dinner with friends, one man's date turned to me and complained, "He's so boring. All he ever talks about is wine. All day long he talks about wine."
I probably looked hurt, because I was just as engrossed in our discussion of Syrah as he was. Lorraine leaned toward me and whispered, "She's right, you know. We're all hopeless wine geeks. Look at us from an outsider's point of view."
But the deeper I get into the world of wine, the harder that is to do. I think moving our discussion from Merlot to Syrah is a total change in conversation. Have I been slowly losing touch with reality and drifting more and more into a fascination with varietal differences and degrees of oak, malolactic overindulgence, and varying theories on wild yeasts?
I must, however, point out the vast difference between a wine geek and a cork dork. In my lexicon, a wine geek, like a computer geek, is consumed by his field. He likes dry and sweet wines, white and red wines, French and American wines. He is an experience junkie, always looking for a new and vinous adventure.
A wine geek will look at an untried varietal like a biologist discovering a new phylum. "What's this? A pinot verde? Get out the Riedel, we must examine this!"
A cork dork, on the other hand, will hold his glass by the base. He'll swirl a wine until it's exhausted, and after a long speech on the supposed characteristics of a wine he has yet to taste, will finally sniff it and announce his disappointment in its aroma. A cork dork will aspire to all things French, and the barrels must be new, the women young, and the wines very old—although any one with any experience knows that these choices are not necessarily the best. If you try to pour him some dessert wine, he'll snatch his glass away in horror, leaving you in the foolish position of pouring wine on the table.
When visiting wine country, you will inevitably encounter both wine geeks and cork dorks. Therefore, I suggest these ten guidelines for differentiating between poseurs (dorks) and real geeks (us).
1. A dork will make you feel uncomfortable. They are supercilious, punctilious, and from my point of view, just plain supersillious. A geek, however, will make you feel comfortable, and value your opinion of his wines.
2. A dork holds his glass by the base, or with his fingers curled sensuously around the body of the glass. A geek grabs his glass by the stem and just sticks his nose in. All business.
3. Geeks love sweet wine and the women who drink them. Always keep a bottle on hand for the sensual possibilities. A dork does not keep sweet wine or palate deadening spices in his kitchen.
4. Dorks love to mention Bordeaux and Burgundy. Geeks speak and kiss French.
5. Dorks spend as much as possible for large bottles at auction, hoping for the ultimate photo opp. Geeks barter, trade, and wheedle for wine, but always seem to have plenty on hand.
6. Dorks will ask, "How long will this wine cellar?" Geeks will age a wine only as long as necessary to make it drinkable. They have been known to pick up old bottles and hold them up to the light, shaking the sediment around, and saying, "Do you think I can drink this now?"
7. In a restaurant, dorks will swizzle wine loudly through their teeth before taking the first swallow. Geeks never do this on a first date, because they know if you laugh, the wine will come out your nose.
8. Dorks will order food, then a wine to match. Geeks order wine, and a totally unrelated food. They're always surprised by how well food and wine go together.
9. Dorks follow numerical wine ratings and place their bets accordingly. Geeks are the hecklers of the wine world, and can often be overheard saying, "That wine got an 87? Geesh, I woulda given it a 91. 92?!? How did that wine rate? Are we sure that's not the judge's age??"
10. Dorks have a proper cellar for their wine collection, with temperature controls, and chairs for their guests. Geeks and winemakers use their cellars for "production stuff," and store their personal selections in the garage, between the kayak and the workbench.