“There’s the faintest soupçon of asparagus and just a flutter of Edam cheese,” says Paul Giamatti in the movie Sideways. Believe it or not, he’s describing pinot noir, not quiche. The world of sommeliers, wine lists, and tasting notes is filled with this kind of language, prices seemingly rising in step with the number of bizarre adjectives. It’s tempting to dismiss the whole thing as B.S., but listen in: This episode, author Bianca Bosker takes us along on her journey into the history and science behind blind tasting, wine flavor wheels, and the craft of the sommelier. You’ll never feel lost in front of a wine list again.
“Cork dork” is the name given to the most obsessive sommeliers: the kind of oenophiles who lick rocks to train their palate, who refer to 10 a.m. tasting sessions as “tongue cardio,” and who can name not only the grape and region in which any given wine was produced but can also tell you the weather during the year it was grown. Cork Dork is also the name of Bianca Bosker’s new book, available in stores on March 28. It tells the story of her transformation from wine novice to pro, as well as diving deep into the neuroscience of smell training, the economics of wine pricing, and the history of the sommelier, from Roman sex slave to today’s cellar rats.