BOOK: Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker (Amazon)
SUMMARY: A wild, wine-soaked ride with only a little bit of a hangover.
READ THIS BOOK IF: You love wine, you’re a *little* pretentious (no shame - me, too), or you’ve been feeling a general malaise and have started thinking things like, “Wouldn’t it be fun quit my job and be a bartender?”
I got Cork Dork as a Christmas gift for my husband last year, with the ulterior motive of stealing it to read myself before he got around to it. If you’ve met Fritz, you know he picks up a new hobby to be passionately invested in about every 4 weeks. In December, after watching the documentary Somm on Netflix, it was wine tasting.
We’d been drinking a lot of wine, reading wine books and doing generally obnoxious things that made our friends embarrassed to be seen with us in public, like swirling around our wine glasses and using words like “fruit-forward.”
Little did we know, we weren’t even scratching the surface of “people who know stuff about wine.” In Cork Dork, journalist Bianca Bosker quits her day job to do a deep dive into the world of sommeliers, winemakers, collectors and the truly wine-obsessed. Bosker decides she wants to train for - and pass - the sommelier certification in 18 months (something that usually takes people years).
In exploring the wine world and studying for her certification, Bosker meets an insanely interesting cast of characters, drinks an alarming amount of wine and suffers through daily routines so unhealthy that I swear I got a contact hangover. “Most days,” Bosker writes, “I was drunk by noon, hung over by 2 p.m., and, around 4 in the afternoon, deeply regretting the burger I’d devoured for lunch.”
Bosker joins elite wine tasting groups to train her palate to identify a wine’s identity, grape variety, region of origin and vintage (that’s like taking a sip of whatever house rosé they hand you at the bar and instantly knowing that it’s a grenache-syrah blend from the southern Rhone valley, made in 2016). She talks her way into jobs at exclusive New York restaurants, invitations to legendary collectors’ dinners, and even a spot guest-judging a sommelier competition.
She also asks big questions like: why should people care about wine? Is there really such a big difference between the wines that wine people love and the wine most people buy for $10 at the grocery store? What is it, actually, that makes wine good or not?
I liked the answer from Bosker’s one-time boss, the owner of a popular wine bar in New York, the best: “The wine must be yummy. [. . .] One sip leads to a second sip. One glass leads to a second glass. One bottle leads to a second bottle.”
It’s a little pretentious at times - you can sense Bosker falling into the self-made mythology of the wine world even as she writes about and occasionally criticizes it - but you know I love a little pretension. You’ll likely have one of two reactions:
Holy shit, these people are absolutely insane and I don’t understand why anyone would want to do this, or
Holy shit, this is amazing and I want to quit my job and do this, like, tomorrow
All in all, it’s a seriously fascinating book about a bizarre but captivating subculture and an entertaining, tipsy read - best paired with several glasses bottles of wine.