Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends.

Wine is a way to add great things to your life, but there is a dark side....

So you've decided wine is your passion, your avocation, your all-consuming second life.

Sure, you'll taste some of the most hedonistic, luxurious, complex beverages in the history of mankind.

Yes, you will find the perfect match for whatever you love to eat - whether it be strange-flavored chicken, fish tacos or sweetbreads.

It's true, you will meet fascinating, funny, talented, rich and occasionally famous people who share your love for spoiled grape juice.  You'll also meet a lot of very nice farmers.

But be clear about this - there is a dark side to the love of wine.  I'm here to prepare you for the worst if you jump into this lifelong commitment.

Ready? I doubt it.

Prepare to proselytize 

GASP!  Not all your friends will be into wine!

This will instantaneously create a feeling that you must urgently convert everyone you have ever met to your newfound religion.

While most of your friends will love you for dragging them out of the cave and into the light, some will HATE this. They see wine as boring, superficial and well, a little fashionista.

No, they don't care about 2000 Bordeaux at release prices.  They won't want to know the difference between Brix and Oechsle as measures of potential alcohol.  And they really, really really don't want to know if the 2012 German harvest is sugar/acid balanced!

OK, try not to hyperventilate.  I don't understand it either.

But, then again, I don't care about their Bikram yoga classes, golf handicap or obsession with tole painting, so we're even.  Friends don't have to do everything together, do they?

One other thing - God help you if your significant other falls into this category!  There's not much mortal man can do about that.

Prepare to go broke

You will spend all your discretionary cash on wine and wine accessories.  What you don't spend on actual wine, you will spend on stemware, wine openers and storage cabinets.  Then there are the magazines, websites and newlsetters. 

If you get serious about collecting wine, you'll buy a cave.  Hmmm, wine cave or college education for the kids?  Hmmm.

None of this will compare to your travel budget.

Merely drinking Quintarelli Amarone, Domaine de la Romanée Conti or Salon Champagne, won't be enough.

You will be immediately, urgently, necessarily compelled to GO where these wines were created. You will want to see the sun, smell the earth, feel the breeze there, on the spot, where this bottled poetry was created.

And this won't cost ANY money, because NO ONE wants to go to these places, right?

Prepare to be an unpaid wine consultant

Now that you're the wine whisperer, ALL your friends will seek your counsel.  At dinner with your honey?  Count on the phone ringing so you can help someone find a wine that pairs with sardines (Vinho Verde, served ICE cold).  In a late meeting with your boss?  There'll surely be a text message asking if $150 is a good price for 2001 Penfold's Grange (amazing price).

It's fun to be wine Yoda, but this newfound attention will come at a cost.  What if you make a suggestion to a friend and the bottle is corked, cooked or just not to their liking?  You'll get the blame!

They won't remember the bubbly you drank the night you proposed to your wife, but that first miss, they never forget!

Prepare to be Martha Stewart

You will now throw lavish wine dinners and tastings. It doesn't matter if you desire to do this, you must to establish your wine authority.  There's a way you can turn this into an advantage.   Insist, um,  suggest they bring a bottle of wine to whatever soiree you create.  It'll fill your cellar quickly.  That might make up for hours of labor in the kitchen and cleaning the house so you can entertain.

Prepare to be tested

Once your boss finds out about your wine knowledge, he will test you.

The test comes in two manifestations.  Either your boss is a wine fool, ordering white Zinfandel with that $600 Chateaubriand for four, or he will see if you know more about it than he does.

Neither alternative is good.  If you're lucky, the least he will do is ask you to order a bottle of French wine for that billion dollar client who really believes that California wine is the best in the world.  That's one hell of a pop quiz and your career hangs in the balance!  How will you deal with it? 

Prepare to eat and drink differently

Gone are the days when you would drink coffee with anything.  After you've been exposed to pairing wine with specific foods, you will have to do that with every food and beverage combination.

Eating and drinking will now be a messy, complicated affair of trial and error, but take heart - it won't be as bad as this:

but there will be problems.  You'll find that Snickers and Big Red soda is terrible now (How did that go unnoticed before?)  You'll learn that EVERY steak house serves red wine and asparagus making both taste AWFUL?  You'll learn that wines with high iron content make seafood taste like iodine.  You'll also discover that not all wines go with chocolate....

The horror!  The horror!

Prepare to care about none of these

OK, so you see there are problems, but like anything else, you have to take the good with the bad.  Even with these difficulties, the wine habit offers at least three advantages:  1) nothing to practice except sniffing, swirling and spitting; 2) little possibility of injury, barring a horrible corkscrew incident; and  3) it's best done at home or at least with a limousine taking you from place to place.

And that, as my mother says, is "...better than a sharp stick in your eye!"

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