Just Enough To Wet Your Tongue – An Early Wine Education

“Just take enough to wet your tongue,” my father said.

“How big is your tongue?” my mother quipped.

Sunday lunch. A bottle of wine. And our wine education proceeded.

In my reflection on my father last week, I mentioned his late-in-life introduction to wine and the subsequent passionate interest he passed on to his children. It was interesting to note that each of his children mentioned wine in their reflections in the booklet of eulogies put together for his funeral. (Dad refused to have any family eulogies, stating that only the minister was to speak. He’d been to too many funerals where “every man and his dog” had to say something. Of course, we found a way around the rules. He taught us well.)

It seems to me that if I were to write a memoir, for a start it would be short and mostly boring, but it would undoubtedly be dominated by stories of wine.

My brother in his highchair with a liqueur glass of watered-down riesling. We graduated from liqueur glasses, to sherry glasses, to normal wine glasses as we got older.

Visiting a winery, the busload of tourists that came pouring in and the woman who asked, “Do you have any spumante?” I scoffed and did not hide my disdain. I was ten.

The cellar under our house that my father built himself with hand tools. The home-bottling that went on in there and the stacks of bottles with the hand-drawn label.

My favourite wine story, however, is the one most indicative of my father and is also linked to one of the greatest gifts my father gave me.

My parents took my younger brother and me to Europe for 10 weeks when we were 9 and 12 years old respectively. It was what started my love affair with travel. When I was asked to choose a symbol to place on my father’s coffin at his funeral to represent who he was to me, I chose my passport from this trip. Travel has become a major part of my life and it is an opportunity and love I have passed on to my children. They have travelled because I have travelled because my father took me travelling.

But what about the wine?

I’m getting to that.

On this trip, my father had arranged a private tasting at the Pieroth Winery near Bingen am Rhein in Germany. While my parents tasted wines, my brother and I drank fruit nectar (three whole bottles) and ate Ryvita crackers (or whatever the German equivalent was then).

It was growing dark by the time we finished. (It wasn’t that big a session – we always travelled out of season so this was in late October.) The winemaker offered to call us a taxi but my father refused declaring that it was close enough to walk. Just around the corner really.

Off we set along the side of the autobarn with no path, no streetlights and the sky turning darker by the minute. As we stumbled along and the familial air grew increasingly tense, my mother began to make noises about a taxi being a good idea. My father continued to insist that it was just around the corner.

After several kilometres, Dad at last conceded that it was further than he had anticipated. Approaching the first house we could find with lighted windows, he knocked on the door and in his best non-existent German, asked to call for a taxi.

The taxi soon arrived, we piled in and the car took off like a rocket, throwing us all against the back of the seat.

Around the corner and up the street and we arrived at our destination.

It really was “just around the corner”. We just had to get to the right corner.

(Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge – Memoir Madness)


From the Pieroth website. Non-existent when we went there. All communication to set up the tasting was done by snail mail.



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16 thoughts on “Just Enough To Wet Your Tongue – An Early Wine Education

  1. You guys had much the same training as we did – starting with the littlest glass and watered down, and then just as you said. We grew up in Perth, and my father had amongst his clients (he was a lawyer) a bloke named Houghton, so we grew up drinking whatever Houghton wines were around. But travel ? – nup. Not ever. With four daughters and then a fifth, plus a house that ATE money – never a time when there was no maintenance required, alas ! – and his health never all that hot, travel was never on the agenda. Still, at least that meant there was a Very Special Thing for Chic to give me. 😀
    I know I would’ve really liked your Dad.


    • Ah, yes, Houghton’s White Burgandy. I remember that one. 🙂

      We never had brand name clothes, we drove cars into the ground and our television was an old black and white portable that used to be a computer monitor at the university (we got colour tv in 1988). That could be tough as a teenager, especially as a scholarship kid at a Grammar school but I wouldn’t trade all the fancy clothes, new cars or gadgets in the world for that wonderful journey across the globe.

      I’m glad Chic gave you that Very Special Thing. It’s life-changing, in my experience. (I learned German for 5 years at high school simply because I fell in love with Vienna on that trip and swore I’d get back there. As I did, 11 years later.)


    • And I remember the three beds (1 double, 2 singles) Dad requested turning out to be three singles. And spending half the first night on the floor with my coat over me when little brother kept kicking me out of the bed we were sharing. 🙂


    • When I told my husband what I had chosen as a symbol, he nodded and said, “Yes, I was thinking something to do with travel would be the thing.” It was significant for us all. Thank you for your lovely comment. 🙂


  2. Wonderful story. The passport as your symbolic memory of your Dad is quite touching. What a gift he gave you. And I grew up in a house where wine was never taboo. Parents report that they found me as a toddler licking the sticky insides of liqueur glasses left on the coffee table from the night before. And what’s wrong with that, I ask?


  3. What wonderful memories of your Dad. I can just see your Mother’s alarm as you trudge and the ‘I told you so’ look your father would have given you all when via taxi it was just around the corner. It is very close to where my sister in law lives and I can just picture it although I haven’t been to that particularly winery. It is a lovely gift from your father the love of travelling and your passport was a lovely gift to him in recognition of the gift he gave you.


  4. Pingback: Court fixing up the past | litadoolan

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