When I turned 19 (the legal drinking age in Ontario) I wanted to celebrate like any normal person: by doing my first legal wine tasting. Thankfully, close family friends presented me with this opportunity, by purchasing two tickets for a “global wine tasting” at the Fine Wine Reserve in downtown Toronto for my birthday. Joining me was my all-time drinking buddy, who had previously joined me on such outings as this one, and was nearly as avid a wine nut as me. It promised to be an educational night, full of refined class and slow sipping. Thankfully, that was not entirely the case.
The first thing you need to know is that the Toronto Wine Reserve is quite literally a fortress. With multiple pass codes and even a thumb print scanner prohibiting entry to the wine-starved plebs, our access was granted by our lead taster at the nondescript entrance. When I say nondescript I mean it: We literally had to sign a contract promising we wouldn’t divulge its exact location. So why the all the security? Well, it might have something to do with the millions of dollars of wine held in The Reserve’s dim, cool cellars. Anyone with the gall to wander in and pinch a single case could walk out with many thousands of dollars worth of wine. Security is so tight, you’ll set off an alarm just leaving without someone punching in a code. The perfect setting to cut loose on my nineteenth.
Unsurprisingly, our fellow tasters were rather… mature compared to us. Quite literally we were half as old as anyone else participating. Still, eager to show our budding palates, we gladly sat down for some wine. The Global Tasting package focused on showcasing wines from regions less explored by beginners. These included Austria, Portugal, South Africa and several others. A small sample was poured for each of us, with a spit bucket at hand to dispose of wine that was disagreeable. However, for wine that was particularly good, you could even have a second taste, there was plenty to go around.
Some of the wines were very good, while some weren’t. But to two impoverished university students recently legal drinking age, spitting out wine seemed positively insane — almost as insane as turning down a second glass. Needless to say, we drank with increasing enthusiasm and shared our tasting notes with increasing volume. Although I can’t be sure, I like to image we were being glared at by the proper and rigid members of our tasting party, disgusted at the immaturity of getting buzzed at a wine tasting. Regardless, I have nothing but the fondest memories of that evening.
I love indulging in the stuffiness of wine culture. There’s something so comforting in playing a role centuries old, and paying homage to the world’s finest fluid. Just occasionally, however, it’s acceptable to let your hair down and indulge in some frivolity paired with a flight of fine wines. Perhaps, one day, I’ll be the surly old man grumpily eyeing teens getting drunk at a wine tasting. I’ll just try and remember how much fun I had.