Book Review: Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker
“Wine exists only for you, or me, and it exists only in that instant. It is a private epiphany in the pleasure of good company. So don’t let it slip by. Savor it.”
I’ve always been a wine drinker, mostly reds. But I really don’t know much about it, other than knowing what I like and what I don't. I picked up Cork Dork sometime last year and decided to start reading it earlier this month while we were at the beach. Bianca Bosker is a former tech writer for Huffington Post, and somewhat on a whim, decided to learn more about wine. She then decided to quit her day job and spent a year learning everything there is to know about wine; her goal was to become a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers by the end of that year. Cork Dork is her journey interspersed with research and others’ stories.
Bosker’s writing style made the more tedious, scientific chapters much more interesting. There are a few chapters on the science behind taste and flavor, which were less interesting to me. Science was never my strong suit. But I found the chapters about her friends and acquaintances becoming sommeliers and the exams incredibly fascinating (and also a little crazy). Bosker befriended Morgan Harris, a rising star in the New York wine world, and Morgan became her de facto mentor. Morgan was trying to become a Master Sommelier and studying like crazy while working at one of New York's nicest restaurants, Aureole. Morgan intrigued me; he was incredibly dedicated and had some extremely philosophical thoughts about wine. At times, he came off as pretentious, but I really enjoyed his dedication to wine and his calling to share his passion. He seems like one of those friends that you put up with because he’s a good person but can annoy you to no end. Plus you would get to try lots of fancy wines.
My favorite stories were of when Bosker shadowed other sommeliers at their jobs at upscale, fancy restaurants. She shadowed Morgan and then another friend Victoria. I was enthralled by these stories. Attempting to appease tables seems extremely difficult, but I appreciate Morgan's philosophy of making the most for every table, no matter if you can afford a $70 bottle of wine or a $2,000 bottle of wine. And as someone who normally just picks whatever wine seems familiar, I am a tiny bit ashamed when I read that most sommeliers get annoyed with those types of customers. Granted, I am not normally going to these incredibly posh, Michelin-level restaurants, but nevertheless, I think I’ll start asking for recommendations moving forward even if most of the restaurants I go to don't have a dedicated sommelier.
Bosker sat at in as a guest judge at the TopSomm competition, which she described as the Super Bowl for sommeliers. I am still baffled how she was able to finagle that; she must be extremely persuasive. Anywho, Top Somm is only one of the many competitions throughout the United States. But all of these exams and competitions are just bonkers. You have to prepare for months (or in some cases, years) to be able to correctly guess 4 to 6 wines. It is absolutely insane. Morgan was a finalist in the TopSomm competition. He aced the theory portion, had a tiny hiccup in his service portion, but missed one of the wines in the blind tasting. He called one of the wines a Saint-Émilion from Bordeaux's right bank, when in fact, it was a Médoc from Bordeaux's left bank. As Bosker said, he missed it by 24 miles. How crazy is it that he was able to narrow down that much?
What I really enjoyed about Cork Dork is how much sommeliers and aspiring sommeliers love wine. Not from an alcoholic perspective, but more from a finer things perspective. It baffles me how many different types of wine there are and sommeliers are expected to be well-versed in all of them. There are literally thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, various vineyards throughout the world, and most vineyards have more than one wine. I also never really thought about the differences in wine, other than white versus red. But there are plenty of deviations in wine: Old World v. New World. Fruity v. Earthy. Full-bodied v. Light-Bodied. The list goes on. No wonder most sommeliers are eager to share their knowledge with others. It is entirely too much trivial knowledge to keep to yourself.
Cork Dork was a fun read and brought some life into what could be a very boring and snooty subject. I am excited to learn more about wine and try out different types. I give it 4 stars.
What non-fiction books about food or wine do you recommend?